Other sources of nuclear waste come from medical institutions (e.g. CT scanning, mammography, etc.), industrial uses, or nuclear weapons. Certain amount of radioactive material is also freely distributed in nature. Fossil fuels usually contain small percentage of radioactive elements like uranium or radium [4].

What does nuclear waste look like?

From the outside, nuclear waste looks the same as the fuel that was loaded into the reactor before— assemblies of metal rods. These rods contain high level (and high risk) radioactive elements, created during the fission of uranium [16].

Radioactivity is not visible to our eye or detectable by our senses. Some Chernobyl liquidators mentioned a metallic taste in their mouth, while working in the most infested zones – but this was the case of a very strong radiation.

It’s important to know that nuclear waste does not originate only from the energy industry. Other low or medium risk waste comes also from hospitals and industries. This waste is comprised of products, tools, or any kind of objects (gloves, clothes, syringes, containers, etc.) that were subjected to irradiation.

How much nuclear waste is produced?

On average, more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel is generated every year from nuclear power plants [17]. This amount only adds up to the global long-term waste storage problem.

In the United States alone, 90,000 metric tons of waste awaits safe disposal. To get a better picture, this amount would fill a football field about 20 meters deep [18].

A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates the total amount of waste produced globally to be over 228,300 metric tons [19].

All this waste just accumulates every year in many locations around the world and like a ticking bomb endangers unaware communities.

Better alternatives exist today

Because of the many risks that are associated with nuclear waste, our efforts and funding are much better spent on clean and renewable forms of energy that do not pose such hazards to health and to the environment. As clean technologies develop, the costs of deploying renewable energy continue to decrease, while the costs associated with nuclear power continue to increase. At the same time, we shall not forget all the health and environmental risks involved with the nuclear waste.



[1] https://www.ft.com/content/db87c16c-4947-11e6-b387-64ab0a67014c
[2] https://ehss.energy.gov/ohre/roadmap/achre/intro_9_5.html
[3] https://goo.gl/Q2FwyP
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#Medicine
[5] https://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/World-Statistics
[6] http://e360.yale.edu/features/radioactivity_in_the_ocean_diluted_but_far_from_harmless
[7] https://energy.gov/articles/finding-long-term-solutions-nuclear-waste
[8] http://www.cbrneportal.com/the-disposal-of-nuclear-waste-into-the-worlds-oceans/
[9] https://www.uarctic.org/news/2016/10/new-approaches-to-the-nuclear-pollution-of-the-arctic/
[10] https://goo.gl/8ynZqE
[11] https://goo.gl/YlUI4g
[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reprocessing
[13] http://www.ccnr.org/AECL_plute.html
[14] https://goo.gl/W3gnHa
[15] https://goo.gl/ywT7ju
[16] https://www.geek.com/news/geek-answers-why-does-nuclear-waste-glow-an-eerie-blue-1599398/
[17] https://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/On-Site-Storage-of-Nuclear-Waste
[18] https://www.gao.gov/key_issues/disposal_of_highlevel_nuclear_waste/issue_summary
[19] http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/te_1591_web.pdf
[20] https://goo.gl/iikDEm