Thus jokes Oleg, the leader of an NGO in Central Asia when he plans field trips through the region. In fact, this is almost not a joke considering that the region is home to many radioactive dumps. This specific type of waste, inherited from the Soviet era, poses serious management problem, recognized both by governments and international organizations. For example, around the Fergana Valley, in a region prone to landslides, radioactive tailing ponds have the potential to flow into rivers and contaminate the drinking water of millions of people. Radioactive waste exits in many other areas - dumped in the Barents Sea, or simply abandoned in forests and fields all over the territory of Georgia.
What is radioactive waste?
Radioactive waste is any material that contains a concentration of radionuclides greater than those deemed safe by national authorities, and for which no use is foreseen. Because of the wide variety of nuclear applications, the amounts, types and even physical forms of radioactive waste vary considerably – some waste remain radioactive for hundreds or thousands of years, while others may require storage for only a short period, while they decay, prior to conventional disposal. (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Types of Radioactive Waste
High-level waste includes the spent fuel from nuclear power generation, or the residual waste from reprocessing the spent fuel. The military also produce high-level waste.
Low and intermediate level waste includes items that have come into contact with some radiation. This may be at nuclear power plants, hospitals, dentists, research laboratories and other commercial operations. Both the volume and the level of radioactivity have to be considered – a large volume of waste with a low-level of radioactivity presents less danger than a smaller amount of waste with a high-level of radioactivity. For example, spent fuel (elements that have been removed from a reactor after use) makes up less than 1% of the volume of radioactive waste, but contains almost 95% of the total radioactivity. (Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management).
Source of radioactivity
1. Produced during all phases of nuclear energy production (nuclear fuel cycle)
2. Defence activities
3. Hospitals, universities, and research laboratories
5. Mining and milling uranium ore