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Management of transuranic wastes throughout the world

Nuclear and Chemical Waste Management
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0191-815x(83)90036-0
  • Engineering


Abstract Transuranic (TRU) wastes are those radioactive wastes, except spent fuel and high-level wastes, that are contaminated with sufficient long-lived, alpha-emitting nuclides that the decay to innocuous levels in engineered storage structures or shallow-land burial sites cannot be used as a disposal method. This class of waste is produced principally during spent fuel reprocessing, recycle fuel fabrication, and weapons material production. At least ten countries are involved in operations producing this class of waste, which represents a small fraction of the alpha-emitting nuclides in the world's inventory and of the total volume of radioactive wastes produced in nuclear activities. No consensus has been reached on a numerical definition; definitions in use vary from > 0.03 to > 1000 nCi transuranium radionuclides per gram of waste (TRU/g). The definitions are presently used to separate wastes going to sea dumping or shallow-land burial from those requiring greater isolation. All countries emphasize plutonium recovery and volume reduction in their plans for treating TRU wastes. Incineration is the most prevalent treatment in use. When fixation is used, cement and bitumen are the preferred fixation media. All high-concentration TRU wastes are now being placed in interim storage. No TRU wastes are presently being disposed except the low-concentration wastes being dumped at sea by Belgium and the United Kingdom and those being injected into geologic strata by the United States (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and the USSR. All countries prefer and are planning to use deep geologic repositories for final disposal of TRU wastes. According to present schedules, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility in the United States, with a scheduled startup date of 1989, will be the first operating repository since the closure of the Federal Republic of Germany's Asse Salt Mine in 1977.

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