ARCHIVE: e-Digest Statistics about: Radioactivity
Solid radioactive wastes are not discharged to the environment but stored and conditioned by processes such as super compaction, cementation or turning into glass. Such wastes cover a wide range of materials and can be classified, according to the nature and quantity of radioactivity associated with them, as high level wastes (HLW), intermediate level wastes (ILW) or low level wastes (LLW). HLW result from the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and are highly radioactive. Although small in volume, they contain over 90 per cent of all the radioactivity in wastes from nuclear establishments. ILW are less radioactive than HLW and examples include nuclear reactor components and the metal cladding used for nuclear fuel. HLW and ILW stocks are stored on the sites where the waste arose whereas most LLW is disposed of as it arises to the national facility near the village of Drigg. All wastes are subject to independent regulation by HSE and authorising departments. The present review of Government policies on radioactive waste management will lead to a long term strategy for radioactive waste in the UK; the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) are looking at the higher activity wastes and materials and a separate exercise is looking at the lower activity wastes. Unlike HLW and ILW, LLW do not normally require shielding during handling or transport. Current arisings of LLW are mainly paper, plastics and scrap metal items although overall the major components of LLW is soil, building rubble and steel items such as ducting, piping and reinforcement from the dismantling and demolition of nuclear reactors and facilities.
The table 'Radioactive waste stocks' shows recent trends in the volume of radioactive waste stocks for particular groups of nuclear sites . The most recent inventory from which results are available was for 2004.
The table 'Estimated total current and future radioactive waste arisings' shows the volume of radioactive waste existing and forecast to exist in the future, as reported in the 2004 inventory. About 95 per cent of the radioactive waste total of 2.3 million cubic metres already exists, some already processed and held in stores, much of it is contained within nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities and is reported to arise when these facilities are shut down and dismantled. The remaining 5 per cent of the radioactive waste has yet to be produced (around 100 thousand cubic metres) and will be from planned future operations of the nuclear power industry, defence programmes and from the continuing use of radioactivity for medical and industrial purposes. The assumptions on which the forecast is based can be found in the 2004 inventory . The wastes in this table are shown in the forecast conditioned state. There is no simple relationship between as-stored and conditioned volumes of waste, since the effects of conditioning can vary with different wastes. Estimates of conditioned wastes are, therefore, indicative only and should be interpreted with great care.
Trends in the volume of solid LLW disposed of at Drigg are shown in the table 'Volume of solid radioactive waste disposed of at Drigg'. Approximately 1 million cubic metres of LLW has been disposed of mostly to the facility near Drigg and a smaller volume (33,000 cubic metres) to pits at Dounreay which are now closed. Originally waste was tumble tipped into trenches or pits. For wastes sent to Drigg compaction was introduced in 1988 with increasing volumes of waste being compacted, immobilised in grout and steel containers and placed in concrete vaults. Disposal of waste to the Drigg trenches was gradually phased out and ceased in 1995, when the last disposal trench was closed, covered with an impermeable membrane and capped. From that date, waste has been immobilised in its containers and placed in concrete vaults.
- Key Facts:
- Radioactive waste stocks
- Sustainable Development Indicators:
- M3 Radioactive waste stocks
|16a||Radioactive waste stocks and arisings: 1986-2004, Great Britain|
|16b||Estimated total current and future radioactive waste arisings|
|17||Volume of solid radioactive waste disposed of at Drigg and Dounreay: 1988-2000|
- References, further reading and links to other resources:
-  Electrowatt Ekono (UK) Ltd (2005). The 2004 United Kingdom Radioactive Waste Inventory. DETR/RAS/05.002, UK Nirex Report N/090. Defra. Similar inventories have been produced for 1986, 1987, 1988,1989, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 2001.
- Internet Links:
- Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
- Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra): Radioactive waste management
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Page last modified: 22 June 2006
Page published: 10 September 2003