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  • Context (TH): Researchers at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai studied 20 years of radiological data (2000-2020) from six nuclear power plants in India.
  • They discovered that the radioactive releases and their possible impact on the environment have been very low. This information could support India to advancing its nuclear power program.
Nuclear plants in India
Nuclear power plants of India

Nuclear Waste

  • Radioactive (or nuclear) waste is a byproduct from nuclear reactors, fuel processing plants, hospitals and research facilities.
  • It is also generated while decommissioning and dismantling nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities.
  • Nuclear Wastes: Argon 41, radioiodine, pcobalt-60, strontium-90, tritium and caesium-137.
  • There are two broad classifications: high-level or low-level waste.

High-Level Waste

  • It is primarily uranium fuel that has been used in a nuclear power reactor and is “spent,” or no longer efficient in producing electricity.
    • The fission creates radioactive isotopes of lighter elements such as cesium-137 and strontium-90. These isotopes, called “fission products,”. It accounts for most of the heat and penetrating radiation in high-level waste.
    • Some uranium atoms capture neutrons produced during fission. These atoms form heavier elements such as plutonium. It is known as “transuranic,” elements. They take much longer to decay.

Low-level waste

  • It includes items that have become contaminated with radioactive material. For example, shoe covers and clothing, wiping rags, filters, etc.
  • They are commonly disposed of in near-surface facilities rather than in a geologic repository. There is no intent to recover the waste once it has been disposed of.

How high level nuclear waste is managed in India?

  • India has adopted closed fuel cycle option. It involves reprocessing and recycling of the spent fuel.
  • During reprocessing, only about two to three percent of the spent fuel becomes waste. This waste, called high level waste (HLW).
  • It is converted into glass through a process called vitrification (It is the full or partial transformation of a substance into a glass).
  • The vitrified waste is stored in a Solid Storage Surveillance Facility for 30-40 years prior to its disposal.
  • The need for a final disposal facility will arise only after three to four decades.
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