Nuclear Waste Essay, Research Paper
I believe it s a good thing we are putting our nuclear waste underground for as long as it is needed and until we find a new place to store it without causing any harm to our environment.
People have recycled materials throughout history. Metal tools and weapons have been melted, reformed, and reused since they came in use thousands of years ago. The iron, steel, and paper industries have almost always used recycled materials. Recycling rates were modest in the United States up through the 1960s, although rates increased during World War II (1939-1945). Since the 1960s, recycling has steadily increased. Recycling in the United States between 1960 and 1994 rose from 5.35 million metric tons (5.9 million U.S. tons) per year to 44.7 million metric tons (49.3 million U.S. tons). In 1930 about 7 percent of municipal solid waste was recycled. By 1994 that amount had climbed to 23.6 percent. Experts predict the MSW recycling rate will reach 30 percent by the year 2000.
Certain types of nuclear waste can be recycled, while other types are considered too dangerous to recycle. Low-level wastes include radioactive material from research activities, medical wastes, and contaminated machinery from nuclear reactors. Nickel is the major metal of construction in the nuclear power field and much of it is recycled after surface contamination has been removed.
High-level wastes come from the reprocessing of spent fuel (partially depleted reactor fuel) and from the processing of nuclear weapons. These wastes emit gamma radiation, which can cause birth defects, disease, and death. High-level nuclear waste is so toxic it is not normally recycled. Instead, it is fused into inert glass tubes encased in stainless steel cylinders, which are then store underground.
Spent fuel can be reprocessed and recycled into new fuel elements, although fuel reprocessing was banned in the United States in 1977 and has never been resumed for legal, political, and economic reasons. However, spent fuel is being reprocessed in other countries such as Japan, Russia, and France. Spent fuel elements in the United States are kept in storage pools at each reactor site.
Recycling saves valuable landfill space, land that must be set aside for dumping trash, construction debris, and yard waste .In the United States, each person on average discards almost a ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) per year. MSW is raw, untreated garbage of the kind discarded by homes and small businesses. Waste from industry and agriculture normally is not part of MSW, but construction and demolition wastes are. The United States has the highest MSW discard level of any country in the world.
Landfills fill up quickly and acceptable sites for new ones are difficult to find because of objections by neighbors to noise and smells, and the hazard of leaks into underground water supplies. The two major ways to reduce the need for new landfills are to generate less initial waste and to recycle products that would normally be considered waste.
Backed by a major public relations campaign, nuclear utilities are lobbying to relax environmental standards at Yucca Mountain, so that a repository can be opened despite serious safety concerns. Because a repository will not be ready until at least 2010, the industry is trying to force the construction of a “temporary” facility to take the waste in the interim, either in Nevada, at another contaminated DOE site, or in another weak state — usually with major impacts on Native American nations.
Such a facility, we are trying to underscore, would contribute nothing to public health and safety, serving mainly the nuclear industry’s public relations. Instead, an “interim” dump would introduce new dangers, as high-level waste would be shipped on an unprecedented scale. Other industry efforts include limiting public input, stripping Nevada’s state veto rights, removing or reducing Environmental Protection Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight, and otherwise making it as simple as possible for nuclear power plants to transfer to U.S. taxpayers all responsibility for their waste as soon as possible. Many of these provisions have already been incorporated into legislation pending in the current anti-environmental Congress.
Recycling in the short term is not always economically profitable or a break-even financial operation. Most experts contend, however, that the economic consequences of recycling are positive in the long term. Recycling will save money if potential landfill sites are used for more productive purposes and by reducing the number of pollution-related illnesses.
In my opinion recycling and storing this nuclear waste may not be the least expansive way of taking care of this substances but it is the safest for our environment.