RAW processing route selection

The final objective of waste processing is to transform ‘as generated’ waste to the form suitable for final disposal, providing for high safety and avoiding any significant burden to the environment and population. Several tech­nologies have been developed and implemented to process various types of waste and waste streams. All of them are generally aimed at reducing the original waste volume and providing sufficiently stable and durable waste forms, suitable for long-term storage and ultimate disposal.

Basically two approaches can be applied for the reduction of ‘as gener­ated’ waste volumes:

1. Removal (concentration) of radionuclide contamination from the waste and processing of the small volume of concentrate as higher (intermedi­ate) level radioactive waste. After removal of radioactive material from the waste, the bulk of the original waste volume can be managed as non-radioactive (cleared from regulatory control) or very low radioac­tive material at common conventional landfills, or discharged to water reservoirs (sea, river). Significant reduction of liquid waste volume can be achieved in this way. However, some complications should be expected in relation to handling and further processing of the waste concentrate as intermediate level waste.

2. Reduction of volume of ‘as generated’ waste (e. g., by evaporation of liquid waste or thermal treatment/pyrolysis of solid waste) for further conditioning into a waste form suitable for disposal. The waste matrix in this case represents the bulk of the processed waste volume and, therefore, more space is required in the storage or disposal facility.

Selection of a waste processing route and a decision on its implementation is a complicated process, where technical, economic, safety and other aspects as well as level of industrial development, size of nuclear industry, availabil­ity and type of waste disposal options available in a country should be considered and evaluated. Typical examples of different approaches to waste storage and disposal, leading to different waste processing approaches are, on one hand, the Netherlands, where controlled long-term (100 years) storage of processed waste in special surface storage facility is implemented, while, on the other hand, Germany, where deep geological disposal is the only considered option for all kinds of waste. This latter approach could benefit from higher flexibility in selection of waste processing tech­nologies. And the third, classic example is the case of several European countries, operating near-surface repositories for disposal of processed low and intermediate level waste, where strict WAC requirements must be obeyed.

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