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P6 nuclear-waste-and-half-life1
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P6 nuclear-waste-and-half-life1


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  • 1. Lessons 7: Nuclear waste and half-lifeWhat you need to know: 1. What is nuclear waste? 2. How we can deal with nuclear waste. 3. What is half-life? Nuclear waste is the products created during fission reactions as well as contaminated equipment used to handle nuclear material. Most nuclear waste in the UK comes from nuclear power stations and is very hazardous. This means that it needs to be disposed of safely so that it does not harm anyone. If nuclear waste was simply dumped into a sewer or a landfill site then it could get into the food chain and cause lots of people to become ill. Nuclear waste was once simply dumped at sea and pretty much forgotten about, but environmentalists campaigned that this practice was polluting the seas, and could cause long-term damage which was unacceptable. Therefore another method of disposing or nuclear waste was needed. Currently nuclear waste is stored within containers and buried in deep rock, but a permanent solution is still needed. There are three categories of nuclear waste: Type of waste Strength of Description radioactivity High level waste Very strong Spent fuels rods from a nuclear (HLW) reactor. There is very little HLW as it decays quickly. Intermediate level Strong HLW decays to become ILW. Less waste (ILW) radioactive than HLW, but there is lots of it. Low level waste (LLW) Weak Protective equipment and clothing used by staff at nuclear power stations can be slightly radioactive. In your exam you may be asked what nuclear waste is. © Studydoctor 2009
  • 2. The amount of radiation that a radioactive source emits every second is called itsactivity. This can be heard as clicks on a detector.The activity of a radioactive source decreases with time. This is because everytime a radioactive atom decays, it becomes more stable, meaning that there areless radioactive atoms. This means that over time fewer and fewer radioactiveatoms exist. The half-life of a radioactive material is the time it takes forthe activity (or the amount of radioactive atoms) to decrease by half.Different radioactive elements have different half-lives.For example, looking at the graph above, a source of radiation has an activity of16,000 counts at the start but after 5 minutes the activity has dropped to 8,000counts. Its activity has halved, meaning that its half-life must be 5 minutes. Inanother half-life the activity of the source will drop to 4,000 counts.In your exam you may be asked to describe what half-life is. You may also need to use data contained in graphs or draw a graph to calculate a radioactive source’s half-life. © Studydoctor 2009
  • 3. Recap: 1. Radioactive waste is the radioactive products created in places that use radioactive materials. 2. Radioactive waste is very hard to get rid of and at the moment governments are still trying to find a permanent solution. 3. Half-life is the time it takes for the count rate (or the number of radioactive atoms) from a radioactive source to decrease by half. © Studydoctor 2009