In 1977, the former United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, acting as the agent for the then Department of the Environment, embarked on a programme of research into the geological suitability of particular areas for a possible hard-rock repository. The authority insisted that all that was involved was test drilling. The public, and local authorities saw things differently. They suspected the authority was looking for disposal sites. Protest meetings were held, geologists hounded, and in 1981 ministers abandoned the programme. (Long-term storage of Radioactivity waste, Sheila Hutchison)
Radioactive wastes are fabricated by three groups of activities: the production of nuclear electricity; the production of nuclear weapons; and, in much less significant quantities, in nuclear research, medical practice and certain industrial activities. Radioactive waste restrains an extensive range of material with widely varying characteristics. Some has relatively slight radioactivity and is safe to handle, while other types are intensely hot in both temperature and radioactivity. Some decays to safe levels of radioactivity in a matter of days or weeks, while other types will remain dangerous for thousands of years. Major types of radioactive as reflect on two types of wastes are:
Spent fuel, which is still in the original fuel rods and the concentrated fission products after reprocessing is often collectively referred to as high-level waste.
Highly radioactive residue created by spent fuel reprocessing.
High-level waste contains most of the radioactive fission products of spent fuel, but most of the uranium and plutonium usually has been removed for re-use. Enough long-lived radioactive elements remain, however, to require isolation for 10,000 years or more.
High-level or Spent fuel from a nuclear reactor will contain quantities of 'fission products' with relatively short half-lives. It will thus be intensely radioactive.
If this spent fuel is reprocessed to recover plutonium, these fission products are concentrated to become high-level waste.
Radioactive waste not classified as spent fuel, high-level waste, or by product material such as uranium mill tailings enclose four classes of low-level waste as established by NRC, ranging from least radioactive and shortest-lived to the longest-lived and most radioactive.
Although some types of low-level waste can be more radioactive than some types of high-level waste, in general low-level waste contains relatively low amounts of radioactivity that decays relatively quickly.
Low-level waste disposal facilities cannot accept material that exceeds NRC concentration limits.
Low-level waste also includes such trivia as papers and clothing that may have been contaminated, as well as spent radioactive sources from medical practice or research.
How UK will resolve to manage its Nuclear Based Legacy
Over the past decade, radioactive-waste management, practice and policy have suffered a number of setbacks in the UK. Governments and the nuclear industry itself have alternately treated radwaste management