Most low-level radioactive waste is usually sent to a terrestrial warehouse immediately after packaging. Many long-term waste management options have. Nuclear waste must be processed for safe disposal. This includes its collection and classification, the reduction of its volume and the change of its chemical and physical composition (for example, the concentration of liquid waste) and, finally, its packaging so that it is immobilized and packaged before storage and disposal.
This technique will immobilize the radioactive elements of the HLW and the long-lived ILW and isolate them from the biosphere. Characterization is a technique that provides information on the physical, chemical, and radiological properties of waste, which helps identify appropriate safety requirements and possible processing options. Prudent management of this waste is necessary to protect the health and safety of all laboratory personnel who handle, process, and store waste for disposal, and to minimize potential harm to public health and the environment. Autoclaving infectious animal corpses is difficult due to the high heat capacity and the poor thermal conductivity of the waste, and is often unproductive because the treated waste is still putrefiable.
Other reasons to consider environmental destiny include demonstrating good environmental management, teaching students and employees responsible waste management practices, and maintaining a good public image. As an alternative, some companies and institutions decide that it is more convenient to treat all empty chemical product containers from laboratories as hazardous waste and dispose of them accordingly. As part of a pilot study, the IAEA has provided technological and engineering support for the construction and commissioning of well disposal facilities in Malaysia and Ghana. However, unidentified materials (unknowns) present a problem, because recycling, treatment and disposal facilities need to know the characteristics and hazards to safely manage waste.
In late 1987, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was amended to designate Yucca Mountain, located in the remote Nevada desert, as the only national repository in the United States for spent fuel and HLW from nuclear energy and military defense programs. There are three main types of high-level nuclear waste, transuranic and low-concentration, and each type must be disposed of according to the risk it poses to human health and the environment. Other ideas have also been considered and discarded in the past (see below the section entitled “Other ideas for disposal” and the briefing paper on international concepts of nuclear waste disposal). They produced all of the radionuclides found in the HLW, including more than 5 tons of fission products and 1.5 tons of plutonium, all of which remained at the site and eventually disintegrated into non-radioactive elements.
The hazardous characteristics, treatment methods and disposal requirements for these wastes are different and often incompatible. Many transportation companies also offer waste characterization and preparation services, disposal site selection, and disposal approval. There is little incentive to develop a commercial market that treats and disposes of polyvalent laboratory waste, since most of the waste generated by laboratories is exclusive to laboratories and is small in volume. The storage and disposal options are described in more detail in the information document on the storage and disposal of radioactive waste.