Radioactive waste management
- Wastes produced from nuclear testing labs, nuclear power plants, atomic reactors, research labs by spillage (or) accidents or from uranium mines
- Natural ores, that release radioactivity from nuclide of their elements.
- Three types of radio active wastes are (i) low level (ii) Intermediate level and (iii) High level radiation.
- Low level radiation [between 0 to 1 microurie / litre] are produced by testing laboratories, irradiation centres for induction of mutations, study of metabolic pathways, radiotherapy.
- Intermediate level [1 to 100 microurie / L] are produced from ores which are separated during refinement.
- High level radiations [>100 microurie / L] are highly destructive, which are developed due to (i) accidental leakage (or) meltdown of atomic reactors and (ii) spent fuel of atomic reactors.
- High level wastes produce a lot of heat which require protective shields during handling and transport so they need coding.
- So the wastes are first concentrated to reduce their bulk, kept in thick leak-proof containers and dumped for 50-100 years in small pond in the premises of nuclear plants.
- Radioactive pollution may natural (or) man made.
- Cosmic rays which reach the earth, radiation from radioactive material present in rocks, soil etc. are natural. Eg. Kerala beaches have thorium 232 and cause background radiation.
- Atomic explosion, atomic reactors / nuclear fuel, mining and refining of plutonium and thorium are man made radiation which causes cancer, mutations and even death.
- Radioactive pollution is not curable but to be checked.
- Radioactive substances that are carried to distant places by wind and fall on the ground along with rain water is called nuclear fall out.
- Radiations are of 2 types (i) Non ionising [UV rays 100-300 nm] that causes sun burn, snow blindness, inactivation of biomolecules, xeroderma pigmentosum and (ii) Ionising radiations [x-rays, cosmic / atomic radiations] that damage living cells by ionisation.
- Strontium 90 → replaces calcium in the bone [most dangerous radioactive element]
- Iodine 131 → damages WBC's, bone marrow, spleen, lymph, sterility, defective eye sight, thyroid cancer.
- cesium 137 → accumulates in muscle and replaces Na and K genetic changes.
- Uranium → skin cancers and tumours is miness.
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