Radioactive waste is dangerous substances that are left after a nuclear reaction. The waste can come from parts of old nuclear power stations, old nuclear fuel, uranium mine tailings, parts of nuclear weapons, and any ash, soil or dust that give out radioactive rays. It can cause cancer, burns and other kinds of harm to living things. It is one of the most hazardous kinds of waste. It is not possible to find a completely safe place to keep radioactive waste. It stays dangerous for thousands of years because it breaks down very slowly.
 Types of Radioactive Waste
Radoactive wastes can be broadly classified as
- High level radioactive waste
- Low level radioactive waste
 High Level Radioactive Waste
High Level Radioactive Waste has a long half life and will not become safe for thousands or millions of years. Scientists have spent a long time trying to find a way to make a high level radioactive waste safe. They still have no idea thus storing high level waste is huge problem. Some is buried deep underground, while some is dumped in to the ocean in very strong containers. However the waste stays radioactive a lot longer than the containers stay strong so the radiation can leak in to the ocean. Some high level radioactive waste can be reprocessed to make it less dangerous, or it can be reused. It is sometimes put in ships and taken to countries that can reprocess it. However there is always that risk that the ships carrying the containers can sink or face some sort of mishap, causing the radiation to leak. Anti nuclear activists are of the opinion that radioactive waste should be kept above ground in a dry place close to its source. Rather than just dumping the waste somewhere it should be under watch of scientists.
 Low-Level Radioactive Waste
Low-Level waste comes from waste rock from uranium mining, radioactive materials from hospitals, some kinds of waste from nuclear power stations, as well as clothes or equipment used in or near radiation. Low-level waste is the most commonly produced form of waste and officially it is not very dangerous and can be disposed without any major problems. However people who live or work near radioactive wastes for along time have been shown to be in more danger of cancer.
 Sources of Radioactive Waste
There are many sources of radioactive waste. Some of these are mentioned below.
 NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material)
NORM is the method of processing substances containing natural radioactivity. Most of the waste consists of alpha particles that emit matter from the decay chains of thorium and uranium. Potassium-40 (40K) is the largest source of radiation in a human body.
Coal consists of a relatively smaller amount of radioactive nuclides, such as uranium and thorium, but this is much below the average concentration of those elements within the constituents of the Earth’s Crust.
 Oil and Gas
Most of the left over materials from the oil and gas industry are said have radium and its daughter materials. Generally the sulphate scale in an oil well is known to be very rich in radium and the water oil and gas within a well can often contain radon.
 Mineral Processing
 Medical Waste
Radioactive medical waste is generally known to be made up of beta particle and gamma ray emitters, by products of medical processes used for treating ailments such bone cancer, thyroid cancer and so on.
Industrial waste normally contains alpha, beta, neutron or gamma emitters. Gamma emitters are implemented in radiography. On the other hand neutron emitting sources are used in processes such as oil well logging.
 Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Waste from the nuclear fuel cycle is produced at the front end as well the back end. Front end waste is generally made up of alpha emitting waste that comes from the extraction of uranium. It normally consists of radium and its decay products. The back end is made up of mostly spent fuel rods, and generally consists of fission products that emit beta and gamma radiation, and at times may include actinides that give out alpha particles, such as uranium-234, neptunium-237, plutonium-238 and americium-241.
- Environment Words- A Dictionary in Plain English, published By Images Asia
- Radioactive Waste Management