What is nuclear waste?

What is nuclear waste?

Nuclear Fuel Pellets Before Use
Nuclear Fuel Pellets Before Use

Nuclear waste is a type of waste that is radioactive, which means it emits ionizing radiation or particles. This waste is generated from the use of nuclear technology in industries such as energy, medicine, and nuclear weapons decommissioning. This means that even in countries where there is no nuclear energy production and there are no nuclear weapons, there is still nuclear waste to be stored and disposed of. 

Nuclear waste started to accumulate as a result of military and civilian activities that began in the 1940s with the Manhattan Project, a U.S. research and development project that produced the world’s first nuclear weapons. Even though programs like these are long over, there still exists nuclear waste waiting for a disposal option.

Like many hazardous substances, nuclear waste is regulated by government agencies to protect human health and the environment. In the U.S., this agency is the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Internationally, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works for safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology with safety guidelines and other material shared for use by government regulators. It’s important to note that while the IAEA has safety guidelines regarding nuclear waste, different governments have varying ways of defining, classifying, and regulating nuclear waste. 

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