Thermal decontamination of low-level metallic waste - The case for Canadian nuclear waste management
Daily activities associated with nuclear power plant operations produce large volumes of low- level contaminated waste. During operation, a small percentage (< 1% by volume) of this low-level waste is metallic. However, this figure increases materially when a facility is finally decommissioned (13% by volume), with approximately 1000 m3 of contaminated metal waste generated for every 1 GW decommissioned. With Canadian nuclear decommissioning efforts expected to increase into the foreseeable future, the amount of low-level metallic waste to be disposed of is expected to increase significantly. With the established process of deep geological storage of radioactive waste being costly when viewed from a total lifecycle approach, and with a potential increase in low-level metallic waste volumes, there is an opportunity to find a more cost-effective waste management solution.
Methods for dealing with metallic low-level waste from nuclear facilities vary extensively across the globe. The approach employed at any given site may be set by a host of factors, ranging from regulatory influence, public perception, local economics, available geology for underground storage and often, precedent established long ago by early operations. The overall objective of this paper is to present the case for thermal decontamination of low-level metallic waste as a part of the overall waste management strategy for a facility. The trend towards long term planning to handle large amounts of contaminated metal, along with obtaining a social license to implement a sustainable waste management solution, are key decision-making variables that will be discussed in relation to the LLW handling options presented in this paper.