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NUCLEAR WASTE

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, India entered the vital second stage of India’s three stage nuclear program.

MORE ABOUT THE NEWS:

  • Government had approved Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) to construct and operate India’s most advanced nuclear reactor-Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) back in 2003.
  • India will only be the second country after Russia to have commercial operating Fast Breeder Reactor.

ABOUT FAST BREEDER REACTOR(FBR):

  • It will initially use the Uranium-Plutonium Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel.
  • It is known as breeder as the Uranium-238 “blanket” surrounding the fuel core will undergo nuclear transmutation to produce more fuel.
  • The use of Throium-232 as a blanket is also envisaged in this stage.
  • By transmutation, Thorium will create fissile Uranium-233 which will be used as fuel in the third stage.
  • Therefore, FBR is a stepping stone for the third stage of the program paving the way for the eventual full utilization of India’s abundant thorium reserves.
  • The Prototype FBR is an advanced third generation reactor with inherent passive safety features, like safe shut down of the plant in the event of an emergency.

WHAT IS NUCLEAR WASTE?

  • It is produced when in a fission reactor, neutrons bombard the nuclei of atoms of certain elements.

  • When one such nucleus absorbs a neutron, it destabilizes and breaks up, yielding some energy and the nuclei of diferent elements.
  • The spent fuel contains all the radioactive fission products and radioactive elements that are produced when each nucleus breaks apart to produce energy.
  • Nuclear waste is highly radioactive and needs to be stored in facilities reinforced to prevent leakage and/or contamination of the local environment.

ISSUES RELATED TO NUCLEAR WASTE:

  • The nuclear waste management operation accounts hugely for about 24% of the costs.
  • These waste materials can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years.
  • Wastes are subject to special regulations that govern their handling, transportation, storage, and disposal to protect human health and the environment.
  • It can contaminate water resources (including groundwater) in the area.
  • Globally, about 15 million packages of radioactive material are transported each year on roads, railways, and ships.

SOLUTIONS TO NUCLEAR WASTE:

  • The biggest advantage of nuclear waste is that unlike other industrial toxic wastes, the principal hazard associated with waste i.e. radioactivity diminishes with time.
  • The radioactivity of nuclear waste decreases over time through a process called radioactive decay.
  • The time it takes for the radioactivity of radioactive material to decrease to half its original level is called the radioactive half-life.
  • Presently interim storage facilities provide an appropriate environment to contain and manage existing waste.
  • The decay of heat and radioactivity over time provides a strong incentive to store nuclear waste for a period before its final disposal.
  • As given, after 40 years, the radioactivity of the waste is decreased to about one-thousandth of the level at the point when it was unloaded.
  • Geological disposal facilities (GDFs) are used for the disposal of other toxic wastes, including those containing mercury, cyanide, arsenic and dioxins.
  • Nuclear Transmutation is another process to reduce waste quantities, but it is limited to a certain extent.

INDIA’S WAY OF DEALING WITH NUCLEAR WASTE:

  • According to International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) report of 2015, India has nuclear waste re-processing plants in Trombay, Tarapur, and Kalpakkam.
  • As the wastes generated at the nuclear power stations during the operation are of low and intermediate activity level and thus managed at the site itself.
  • The on-site facilities are located at all nuclear power stations and the surrounding area is monitored for radioactivity.

The post NUCLEAR WASTE appeared first on Vajirao IAS.

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