Nuclear energy and radioactive waste disposal
in geologic media
Factors in debate on use of nuclear power?
- reactor safety. What do Hallam, Nebraska and Chernobyl
have in common?
- economics, alternatives, NIMBY and politics.
- waste disposal - where we
The science of radioactivity and associated health risks:
- what is an isotope?
- isotope sources: primordial, cosmogenic, artificial
- half lives and spontaneous decay.
- types of ionizing radiation:
- alpha: limited penetration
capacity, consists of 2 protrons and 2 neutrons
- beta: energetic electrons
given off when a neutron transforms to a protron.
- gamma: most damaging, similar
- forced decay and nuclear power.
- measures of radiation exposure and roentgen and
rems: measures of chemical disruption.
- roentgen= 2.08 billion ion
pairs in dry air.
- rem = 1 roentgen absorption
- max. permissible dosage in U.S. .5 rem/year.
- > 100 rem yields anemia.
- >1000 radiation death.
- longer term health effects, assoc. cancer can have a
lag time of 30 years.
- background sources and magnitudes:
- cosmic radiation at sea level vs. at Denver (28 vs. 50
- medical average (90 mrem/year), pre-1963 weapons fall
out (4 mrem/year).
- routine emission if U.S. was totally dependent on nuclear
power (.23 mrem/year). Non-routine?
- beware of averages.
- Missing component of background?
High level radioactive waste disposal:
- the generators of and character of wastes and need for
- round about 40,000 - 48,000 tons of high level waste
- defense department, nuclear power plants, medical facilities,
- possible solutions?? You might think of advantages and
disadvantages of each.
- inject into space.
- place into deep marine muds or subduction zones
- ice sheet disposal.
- stabilize into synthetic rock or ceramic.
- terrestrial geologic burial.
- What factors would be desirable in a burial site selection?
- GIS as a way to handle these complex siting problems.
- Legislation and Yucca Mountain site:
- National Waste Terminal Storage Act 1976.
- Nuclear Waste Policy Act 1982.
- Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act 1987.
- DOE and NRC are main players.
Low level radioactive waste disposal
- Aiken S.C. and Hanford, WA were major repositories for
- Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980
- 5 state compacts.
- by 1996 compacts and nonmember states must assume title
to and liability for all low level waste generated within their borders.
- Boyd County site.
- selected by Bechtel, Inc.
- Pierre shale bedrock
- shallow perched aquifers, wetlands.
- enhanced above grade vaults.
- Nebraska presently being sued for bad faith.
Return to index page for environmental geology
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D. Maher Jr..