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Nuclear Energy: A Zero Emission Form Of Energy

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Nuclear power plants are one of the most popular forms of energy generation in the world, thanks to their zero emission energy generation. Nuclear power plants operate on the principle of nuclear fission to generate. In nuclear fission, a radioactive material acts as the fuel.

Upon triggering the fission reaction, the atoms of radioactive fuel are broken or split releasing enormous amounts of energy. This energy is used to convert water to steam and run the turbines generating electricity. Since there is no burning of fuel for releasing heat, there are no emissions associated with it. While nuclear power doesn't produce any kind of airborne emissions, it does produce solid, radioactive nuclear wastes which need to be treated and packaged before being disposed.

 

Treatment of Nuclear Wastes

Processing and treatment of nuclear wastes involve converting the solid wastes into more manageable forms, secure and leak-proof packaging, transportation and disposal.  The main reasons for such treatment procedures are mentioned below.

  • Reducing the volume of the nuclear wastes in more manageable portions makes it easier for optimizing waste management processes.
  • Transforming the radioactive nuclear wastes into other less radioactive and harmful compounds for packaging and disposal
  • Storing the radioactive wastes in secure and sealed chambers that block any kind of radiation emanating from the wastes. Typical lead and grouted cement containers are used here as they are effective at blocking radiations.
  • Disposal of the lead containers at isolated and protected waste disposal sites. They must be disposed off in a manner that makes them inaccessible to the general population.

nuclear-waste-1471361_1920There are a lot of waste treatment processes for reducing the volume such as compaction and incineration. These processes, while reducing the volume the wastes, make them more concentrated. This accounts for greater danger and hence require robust packaging solutions. Low-force compressors are used to super compress the wastes. Usually, trans-uranium wastes are super compressed before being disposed of.

The ratio of volume compression usually varies from 3 to depending upon the radioactive materials. In incineration or combustion, combustible wastes are transformed into non-combustible ash and wastes that can be easily managed and transported. Compression or compaction is used for radioactive wastes that are usually non-combustible and incineration is used for those wastes which can be easily burned to produce ash.    

Other forms of waste management include vitrification and cementation.  The process of cementation involves capturing the radioactive wastes into immobile cement chambers. Wastes are usually converted into various forms gels, fragmented chunks or sludge. Once the wastes are stored in the cement chambers, grouting materials are added so that the wastes and cement chambers fuse together to form one solid block which can be transported and disposed of.

Vitrification is a process that converts the wastes into non-reactive and stable solutions with usual borosilicate as a suitable medium. Glass has long been known to be one of the most stable forms of the medium in which stable solid solutions with radioactive wastes can be easily and transported to disposal sites.

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