Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

New caste for radioactive waste

Low-level radioactive waste includes radioactively contaminated protective clothing, tools, filters, rags, medical tubes, and many other items that are commonly buried at landfills. Concentrating on reducing the environmental risks entailed, from their transportation to dumping including long-term environmental effects, a new innovative method and apparatus has been developed for their thermal decomposition and disposal.
New caste for radioactive waste
Low-level radioactive waste involves items that have become either contaminated with radioactive material or made radioactive through exposure to low dose radiation, such as neutron adsorption. Usually it includes protective shoe covers and clothing, reactor water treatment residues, equipment and tools, luminous dials, medical tubes, injection needles, syringes, wiping rags, mops, filters, swabs, and laboratory animal carcasses and tissues. Their radioactivity levels may vary from just above those found in nature, to very high in particular cases, such as parts coming from the interior of a reactor vessel in a nuclear power plant.

For its disposal, low-level radioactive waste has to be kept on-site in licensed facilities until its radioactivity decays away, when it is then treated as ordinary garbage. In cases where there are large amounts of low-level radioactive waste, it is shipped in specifically designed containers destined for low-level radioactive waste disposals, especially constructed and operated to meet safety standards.

An alternative technology has been developed for treating such waste material in a more cost-effective and safe way. The method used is the flash pyrolysis of the low-level radioactive waste for thermal decomposition of the material. The innovative apparatus consists of an indirectly burning reactor, which produces pyrolysis gas-vapours and solid products under special conditions.

Land disposal facilities must be sited, designed, operated, closed, and continuously controlled so that reasonable assurance exists that exposure to humans is within established limits. Moreover, wastes that may be ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic are disposed of in solid waste landfills leading to irreversible damage to public health and the environment. The newly developed technology can be exploited for both preventative and protective measures against radiation hazards associated with the routine transportation and disposal of waste. Furthermore, with this innovation, the high costs involved in the current process of transportation and landfill will be sufficiently minimised.
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