Currently, the extent at which energy needs of humanity is increasing requires that a multitude of various energy alternatives, sources and applications be considered. For various reasons, nuclear energy ought to be a main segment of the distribution to many countries all over the world. The most common hurdle in strategic terms to this approach is nuclear waste disposal. The United States electricity is produced by nuclear plants. The process applied to generate energy and power from nuclear plants is referred to as nuclear fission. Despite the huge importance of nuclear fission, the process generates significant amounts of nuclear wastes or high level of radioactive waste. Over 40,000 metric tons of highly radioactive nuclear wastes have been generated by nuclear power plants, high level nuclear weapons such as plutonium and uranium as well as commercial reactors. Yucca Mountain has been proposed as suitable site for the disposal of nuclear waste. The main idea or need is on the development of the Nuclear Waste Storage Criteria in a stable, reliable geological environment that’s safe and will maintain its integrity in nuclear waste storage over millions of years. Owing to the rise in activities involving radioactive emissions in many states all over the world, this research paper will be significant (to such countries) in designing and developing a nuclear waste storage criterion.

Introduction

The extent at which energy needs of humanity is increasing requires that a multitude of various energy alternatives, sources and applications be considered. For various reasons, nuclear energy ought to be a main segment of the distribution to many countries all over the world. The most common hurdle in strategic terms to this approach is nuclear waste disposal. Almost every country using nuclear power for various reasons faces this problem of where and how to dispose of waste or used fuel material with a lot of considerations to effects of their actions. The current strategies with regards to disposal of the nuclear waste need to be reviewed so that the world may achieve the target sustainable energy distribution by as well as solving the largest environmental concern of the 21st century, that is, global warming. Ambitious proposals and strategies to replace the current nuclear waste storage by alternative means will substantially reduce the percentage of fossil fuel use and consequently reduce the storage volume.

There are several ways in which nuclear waste are emitted. It arises from electricity generation in power plants that utilizes nuclear, from operations of nuclear fuel, and other situations in which radioactive substance is used. To add on this, radioactive waste is emitted when natural radioactive substances coalesce in other waste material. Necessary precautions need to be taken in the management of this situation. Various activities contribute to the bulk of radioactive waste ranging from nuclear power, hospitals activities, and mineral processing plants.

The characteristics of these wastes are varied. They vary in terms of the content of radioactive waste, and their chemical and physical properties. The rate at which they are emitted is also not constant. The only common feature of the radioactive wastes is that they can be hazardous to the environment and the people. Therefore, there is need to manage the generation of these wastes to evade the risk associated with them. The possible hazard varies depending on how the wastes are managed and how the different wastes are disposed.

This publication on safety highlights safety measures that might be effective in disposing all types of radioactive wastes. It brings out the main safety objective and method in which the environment and its habitant are protected against radiation risks emanating from radioactive operations, and other risks that might be there after operations. To be in tandem with the conditions of this criterion, the implementation of the measures should commence at site evaluation and selection, after which concentration is turned to the structure, construction, and operations in the site.

Nuclear wastes emanates from all stages of nuclearfuel cycle. The production and use of radionuclides as medicine, in industries, nevertheless in research, also aids in the generation of radioactive waste. Contaminated facilities and by-products containing high levels of natural radionuclides are also produced as a result mineral processing, for instance rare and heavy minerals such as gypsum, tin ores and phosphate rocks.

These wastes are categorized broadly into two: High-intermediate-low level wastes, and long-lived or short-lived waste. The classification is according to the radionuclides concentration, radiation type, required level of shielding, and the quantity of heat produced in the process of radioactive decay.

The method used for the disposal of the different types of radioactive wastes should make sure that the environment is sufficiently protected, and the current generation and its posterity, not living out the personnel in the disposal site, do not become the victims of high levels of radioactive exposure and risks.

It is to the agreement of experts and most people that low-level radioactive waste may be done away with near the surface of the earth. This category of radioactive waste contains radionuclides  that are short lived, and generates little heat. They are not disposed a far from the earth surface, since they take shorter time to die, that is a few centuries. It is also acceptable that disposal sites be controlled and maintained for the short life of the short-lived radioactive waste, provided that the accumulation of the waste does not reach unacceptable level, thus a burden to the posterity.

The parameter used for categorizing radio-nuclides into short lived is that they should have half-lives of not more than 30 years. Disposal in the shallow-ground is preferred for the wastes that decompose to very minute levels within their period for institutional control.

Radioactive wastes that are long-lived are also preferred on condition that the initial accumulation and concentration level of radio-nuclides in the radioactive waste are small. To add on this, sufficient intrusion barriers are added up in the structure of the disposal facility.

Problem Statement

There have been a number of attempts to find a solution to the disposal of the nuclear wastes in the USA and Europe since 1959 but they have failed to materialize. There have been efforts to find a site for the disposal of high level radioactive waste but they have failed due to cancellation from the government and possible harms to the surrounding communities. Nuclear waste is permanently stored in fuel pods. According to “Long Term Management of Waste” (2008), 20 countries that account for the biggest portion of nuclear power generation utilized 59% of spent fuel storage capacity at the reactors which was 148,000 tons. Thus this means only about 40% space is available and thus a permanent solution to safely dispose this nuclear waste is critical and the best criteria for nuclear storage should be developed. As observed recently most nations have began numerous talks on the criteria for disposal of nuclear waste storage. The United States, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Germany are some of the main countries that have taken this action (Long Term Management of Waste, 2008.).  The United States as of the moment has opted for a final nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada; though the move has received much refutation owing to the danger of transporting the radioactive waste over the long distances without efficient and reliable waste transportation sources. 

Currently, the available world’s storage of nuclear or radioactive waste is almost at its maximum capacity.  The waste take thousands of years to decay, thus a permanent and better solution should be put in place for disposing this waste safely. According to Ngunyen (1994), over 30 different countries worldwide today rely on nuclear generated power for substantial portion of their electricity production. Due to this massive demand for nuclear generated power, huge amount of radioactive/nuclear waste are emitted and storage for this nuclear waste is running short rapidly. As the problem becomes more critical, the United States and other countries are beginning to research and design criteria for the development of nuclear waste storage.  Many criteria and possibility have been brought forward, though extensive research is needed urgently to develop the best criteria for development of nuclear waste storage safely and away from any harmful effect. Owing to the running storage space, new storage that can store nuclear waste for a long time safely is a major concern in the United State and globally.

The main idea or need is on the development of the Nuclear Waste Storage Criteria in a stable, reliable geological environment that’s safe and will maintain its integrity in nuclear waste storage over millions of years (Nguyen, 1994). The criteria for the development of nuclear wastage storage are based on multiple barriers, natural and engineered, though natural criteria in the main one.

Significance of the Research

Owing to the rise in activities involving radioactive emissions in many states all over the world, this research paper will be significant (to such countries) in designing and developing a nuclear waste storage criterion. Many countries (for instance, Germany, Sweden, USA, Canada, Finland, Iran, Switzerland, and Israel among others) have switched to use of radioactive natural phenomenon in day to day conveniences. This poses a problem as to how and what method can be used to store the used fuel that is highly radioactive. This research paper will be significant in answering these questions and proposing a desirable criterion to be applied in nuclear waste storage.

Contrary to popular belief, radioactivity is an innate phenomenon and also a natural source of radiation characteristic of the environment. In the present world, radioactive substances and radiation have crucial beneficial applications. These benefits range from medicine uses to power generation, agriculture and industry. In any country where nuclear power is used, radiation risks to the employees and the members of the public as well as the environment may arise from the applications. These risks must be assessed and by all means controlled. Humanitarian processes for instance medical uses of radiation, operating the nuclear applications, the transport, production and the use of radioactive material, as well as the management of the same must be subjected to safety measures and standards. It is a national responsibility to regulate safety; however, the radiation threats may go beyond national and international borders. This cooperation helps in promoting and enhancing safety at a global level by exchanging experiences as well as improving capabilities in the control of hazards so as to prevent accidents and the response to emergencies to mitigate harmful consequences.

An aspect worth noting is that countries all over the world owe diligence and duty of care to the citizens. This is in line with the mandate to fulfill the national and/or international endeavors and obligations. Countries that have embraced the recent methods of power generation by use of nuclear rich minerals need to exercise the international safety standards that provide the necessary support in meeting their obligations in environment and human safety. Development of a good criterion to be used in the storage of nuclear waste is a step towards achieving this goal and this paper will be quite important in this process.

Research Objectives

The available world’s storage of nuclear or radioactive waste is almost at its maximum capacity. On the contrary, there is growing massive demand for nuclear generated power in the United States and most countries worldwide which unfortunately emits large amount of nuclear wastes which could be harmful to the environment and human health. The storage of these nuclear wastes is running short. As the problem becomes more critical, the United States and other countries are beginning to research and design criteria for the development of nuclear waste storage. The objective of this paper is to explain

  • Explain the best criteria for Development of the Nuclear Waste Storage Criteria and
  • Identify some of the best possible areas of Nuclear Waste Storage in the United States.

 CHAPTER 2

Literature Review

According to Murray (1989), over 20% of the United States electricity is produced by nuclear plants. The process applied to generate energy and power from nuclear plants is referred to as nuclear fission. Despite the huge importance of nuclear fission, the process generates significant amounts of nuclear wastes or high level of radioactive waste. Over 40,000 metric tons of highly radioactive nuclear wastes have been generated by nuclear power plants, high level nuclear weapons such as plutonium and uranium as well as commercial reactors. Yucca Mountain has been proposed as suitable site for the disposal of nuclear waste. It is a thirteen million years old volcanic identified ridge. The geological zone is constantly being monitored and studied by projects under governmental departments for instance the department of energy. Researchers under the project have constantly assured the public that the mountain is well stable and the 77000 tons of spent radioactive fuel rods and waste buried under is safe. A tunnel sliding downwards serves as a storage facility.

According to research by the US Department of Energy, almost 160,000 used fuel assemblies that contain 45,000 tons of used fuel from the nuclear power plants are presently stored within the United States. Amongst these, approximately 156,500 assemblies are in storage at nuclear power plants and almost 3,500 assemblies are in storage at other storage facilities away from the reactor, for instance, the General Electric plant located at Morris in Illinois. The enormous greater parts of the assemblies are mostly stored in large water pools and a small part (less than 5%) is stored in dry barrels. Approximately 7,800 spent fuel assemblies are taken out of reactors every single year and are kept until a dumping facility is available for that purpose. If by any chance all of the 160,000 used fuel assemblies presently in storage were to be assembled in a single location, then they would simply cover up a soccer pitch approximately five and a half yards high.

2.1 Repository Concerns

According to DOE (the U.S Department of Energy), for a repository radioactive waste to be enacted, the involved parties must meet a number of criteria that include safety, economics and location (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). The site safety composes of not only the outcome of the repository on human life close to the site, but as well as individuals along the transportation paths to the location. In this research paper, both groups of individuals will be considered. When looking at the location, waste sites can never be established in an area that has large population or even in close proximity to a ground or land water supply. Additionally, since the most considerable factors in establishing the natural life of a potential repository is the time it takes for the waste storage canisters to continue being intact, the site of the radioactive waste must be in an area with dry climate to do away with the moisture that may result in the corrosion of the waste canisters. Another criterion employed is the economics included in choosing a site. Currently, the US Department of Energy has used up approximately $1.7 billion on the waste project of the Yucca Mountain (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). In view of that, there is an increase in pressure in the selection of Yucca Mountain as a suitable repository site. If not, these funds will seem to have been misappropriated or wasted. However, other costs have to be put into consideration. For example, we should establish just how economical it is to transfer radioactive waste transversely through a number of states to a single national site.

2.2 Climate Concern

It is now clear that the issue of climatic changes and particularly the global warming concern is a grave matter for the present time. With the new protocol advanced by the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) that calls for a minimization of green house emissions to 93% for the united states, 92% for the United Kingdom (U.K) as well as other countries all over the world (Holt, 2011). The difficult task remains only in meeting these requirements. In the US the global warming potential coming from radioactive and CO2 emissions in recent times has been greater than most of the other countries combined (ref 6). 6 also states that the power plant sectors also contribute about 30% of the total emissions.

Chapter 3

Methodology

The objective of this research is to explain the criteria for Development of the Nuclear Waste Storage. Thus it seeks to analyze the based criteria to obtain a nuclear waste respiratory storage that’s suitable.  The methodology will conduct analysis of separate pathways on the criteria for development of nuclear waste disposal storage

1. Site releases of radionuclides to groundwater.

2. The rock structure ability withstand human invasion in the future

2. Releases of potential volatile radionuclides to the atmosphere.

3. The consequences of inadvertent intrusion into a disposal facility.

4.  Natural setting ability to contain the waste

The research will be based on qualitative analysis previous study, scientific background information and government information on potential location for the storage of nuclear waste. The permissible concentration of each radionuclenuclides in disposed nuclear waste will be determined of the four pathways. 3 sites will be selected in the United States and evaluated as potential site for the development of nuclear waste disposal storage. To get this information previous study on the suitability of the area will be analyzed and Background on 40 CFR Part 197 Environmental Standards for each site as proposed by Clarke (1997). The will be summarized by the 58 evaluated radionuclides according to their environmental mobility, their half-lives and by their limiting pathway and  indicate whether the evaluated sites have the required technical capability for disposal of same radionuclides in the nuclear waste. Validity and reliability of the information collected and result used to determine the criteria for the development of nuclear waste storage will be based on the book “book ” book Understanding Radioactive Waste” as proposed by Murray (1989).

Research Plan

Since most data will be collected form pervious research and background study on 40 CFR Part 197 Environmental Standards for each potential site like Yucca Mountain. The research is expected to take a period of one month after which the result will be analyzed and presented together with the recommendations.