Nuclear waste disposal

There are different categories of nuclear waste. Low-level radioactive waste, such as contaminated gloves, can be disposed of in landfill sites. Higher level waste, which may be dangerously radioactive, is more difficult to dispose of. It can be reprocessed to extract nuclear fuel or encased in glass and left deep underground.

Nuclear waste categories

CategoryExamplesDisposal
Low levelContaminated equipment, materials and protective clothingPut in drums and surrounded by concrete, and put into clay lined landfill sites
Intermediate levelComponents from nuclear reactors, radioactive sources used in medicine or researchMixed with concrete and put in a stainless steel drum in a purpose-built store
High levelUsed nuclear fuel and chemicals from reprocessing fuelsStored underwater in large pools for 20 years, then placed in storage casks in purpose-built underground stores where air can circulate to remove the heat produced. High level waste decays into intermediate level waste over many thousands of years.

Generating electricity using nuclear fusion