In 2014, the total power generated by these facilities is around 2,364 billion kWh. Nuclear waste management costs around 5% of the total cost of the electricity generated. Nuclear power plants provide around 15% of world’s electricity with more than 430 nuclear power plants operating worldwide to generate electricity and numerous research reactors. There are around 75 new nuclear plants under construction in 15 countries. There are more than 10 countries across the globe that relies on nuclear energy to supply at least one forth of their total electricity.
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There are two sources of nuclear wastes: waste produced from the nuclear power plant as a by-product or from other miscellaneous applications such as research and medicine and contains radioactive material. Nuclear waste is hazardous to most forms of life and is regulated by the government agencies. Most of the fuel used in nuclear power plants consists of small uranium pellets which are stacked inside an alloy fuel and is stored in airtight steel or concrete and steel containers or in steel-lined concrete pools filled with water.
Nuclear waste is radioactive and hot when it is taken out of the reactor and should be disposed properly to protect human beings as well as environment. Nuclear waste can remain radioactive for a very long time and it is difficult to find a disposal facility for radioactive waste. A disposable facility should be able to contain waste for a long time and is chosen on the bases of type of waste being disposed. Radioactive waste disposal technologies have been evolving and strict environmental protection and population prevention standards are maintained.
Due to the complicated regulatory structure for managing nuclear waste, disposingthe waste is a complex issue. Despite of the number of time a nuclear fuel is used, it is disposed in a permanent geologic repository. For an integrated used nuclear fuel management program, underground disposal in a specially designed facility is an essential element.
On the basis of types of nuclear waste, the global radioactive waste management market can be segmented into exempt waste (EW), long and intermediate level waste (LILW) and High level waste (HLW). Items that have been in contact with radioactive materials such as tools, gloves, purification filters and personal protective clothing are categorized as low level radioactive waste.
There is approximately 270,000 tons of used fuel. Approximately 90% of used fuel is in storage ponds and the rest in dry storage. Nuclear fuel waste is arising 12,000 tons per year and about 3,000 tons of the waste is reprocessed. In 2010, majority of the nuclear waste was generated from the U.S.; which is about 280,000 tones followed by France which is around 159000 tons and Germany which produced around 45,000 tones.
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The Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan has compelled many countries to reduce dependency on nuclear power plants and focus on other sources to produce electricity. Even countries such as Switzerlandand Germany have fixed a timeline for shutdown all of their nuclear plants. Most of the nuclear plants in the world are more than 30 years old. Dismantling a nuclear facility is also a problem for the industry.
Some of the key companies in the global radioactive waste management market include Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, Ecology Services, Inc., Veolia Environmental Services and Kurion Inc among others.