Radioactive wastes are wastes that contain radioactive material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-products of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine. Radioactive waste is hazardous to human health and the environment, and is regulated by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment.
Radioactivity diminishes over time, so waste is typically isolated and stored for a period of time until it no longer poses a hazard. The period of time waste must be stored depends on the type of waste. Low-level waste with low levels of radioactivity per mass or volume (such as some common medical or industrial radioactive wastes) may need to be stored for only hours, days, or months, while high-level wastes (such as spent nuclear fuel or by-products of nuclear reprocessing) must be stored for thousands of years. Current major approaches to managing radioactive waste have been segregation and storage for short-lived wastes, near-surface disposal for low and some intermediate level wastes, and deep burial or transmutation for the long-lived, high-level wastes.
Causes of Radioactive Pollution
Following are the major sources where most of the radioactive waste is generated and is responsible for causing radioactive pollution:
- Production of nuclear fuel
- Nuclear power reactors
- Use of Radionuclides in industries for various applications
- Nuclear tests carried out by Defense Personnel
- Disposal of nuclear waste
- Uranium Mining
Effects of Radioactive Pollution
The effects of radioactive pollution or exposure to nuclear radiations were first reported in early 20th century when people working in uranium mines suffered from skin burn and cancer. The effects vary from organism to organism and from level of radioactivity of nuclear isotopes. The radiations destroy the cells in human body and causes cancer.
Radioactive particles forms ions when it reacts with biological molecules. These ions then form free radicals which slowly and steadily start destroying proteins, membranes, and nucleic acids. A longer exposure to radioactive radiations can damage the DNA cells that results in cancer, genetic defects for the generations to come and even death.
Atmospheric pollution is not a constant or regular phenomenon and therefore the frequency and duration of pollution will vary with time and conditions. The three major types of conditions exists
Continuous Pollution: This type of condition exists in uranium mines, nuclear reactors, test labs etc. where the humans are under continuous exposure to radioactive contaminants and protective clothing is required to avoid radiation exposure.
Accidental Pollution: This type of condition exists during accidental exposure to radiations by virtue of equipment failure, radiation leak, faulty protective equipment etc.
Occasional Pollution: This condition exists during isolated experiment or test of nuclear substance.