What are the types of nuclear waste?

There are several classes and categories of radioactive waste and the two most common are low-level radioactive waste and high-level radioactive waste. Low-level radioactive waste generally includes materials that have been contaminated with radioactive material or have become radioactive through exposure with certain types of radioisotopes. This can include soil, debris, medical tubes, plastic bags, and metal. High-level radioactive waste is generally a hazard to humans and the environment for hundreds of thousands of years and is mostly spent nuclear fuel from power reactors and nuclear weapons program waste. It is the international scientific consensus that the safest way to store nuclear waste is to bury it deep underground to isolate it from the biosphere.

Low Level Waste

  • Stored in shallow ditches or metal containers until no longer radioactive.
  • Does not need permanent disposal.
  • Examples: Soil, debris, medical tubes, plastic bags, and metal

High Level Waste

  • Stored in spent fuel pools or large dry casks awaiting disposal.
  • International consensus is to dispose of waste underground for long periods of time.
  • Examples: Spent nuclear fuel from power reactors or nuclear weapons program waste

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