Radioactive Wastes and Pollution


Radioactive wastes are the products that are put out by nuclear power plants and at times due to unsafe disposal processes carried out by the workers, the nearby region and the ambiance are liable to get polluted by those radioactive products which in turn would lead to radioactive pollution in the nature. It is harmful to the flora and fauna of that area.

What are radioactive wastes?

Radioactive or nuclear wastes are the by-products that come out of nuclear reactors, research facilities, and even hospital facilities. These wastes are often generated when the nuclear reactors and nuclear facilities are dismantled. Mostly, the radioactive wastes that come out of the facilities are broadly classified as high and low-level radioactive wastes.

High-level wastes are mostly the fuels that have been primarily spent or fuels removed from reactors after the production of electricity. Low-level wastes are the one that comes out of medical and research facilities as well as other industrial activities. Most of the radioactive wastes that are found in nature are low-level radioactive products.

Radioactive pollution: Definition

The radioactive materials found in the air and water of a particular area creates this kind of pollution. These are liable to cause severe unhealthy and fatal situations to individuals and the plants and animals to be found in the surrounding environment. Often this happens due to unsafe disposal of waste products from radioactive facilities. These are harmful to individuals. Often it so happens that the canisters and the sealed boxes which are dumped into the water bodies get rusted and even lead to leakage of the containers. These leakages are harmful to the water bodies and marine creatures to be found along with the animals that sustain on that water body, subsequently affecting the entire environment and leading to a case of radioactive pollution.

Radioactive wastes: Types

The radioactive wastes are sub classified into certain sections. Some of them are mentioned below −

Figure 1: Radioactive Wastes

Various Low-level Wastes

These are considered to be the least dangerous of all the radioactive materials to be found in nature. It is the weakest of all the radioactive wastes in the environment. These wastes are mostly obtained from the demolition of various buildings and other industrial projects.

Low-level Wastes

These waste bodies are mostly obtained from the waste streams from hospitals and industries. Products like rags, paper, tools, and other types of equipment from the facilities contain such radiation. These wastes are generally burnt and disposed of.

Intermediate Level Waste

This type of waste is an outcome of high-level waste and hence as the name suggests they belong to the strata of intermediate level. These materials are generally buried down into the ground to prevent any kind of contamination with the air or water.

High-level Waste

These kinds of radioactive wastes are produced by burning uranium found in nuclear reactors. These kinds of wastes are typical of very high temperatures and are highly radioactive. The management of the product requires thorough cooling down of the wastes and the containment of the product.

Effects of radioactive pollution

There are various effects of radioactivity that is to be found in the creatures of the surrounding environment. The most severe impact of radioactive pollution has been witnessed by the world from the Chernobyl disaster that happened in 1986. Some of the effects of radioactive pollution are mentioned below −

Figure 2: Effects of radioactive pollution

  • It is susceptible to cause mutations in the genetics of plants and animals of that region.

  • The soil of that particular region will be infertile.

  • It will destroy cellular structures.

  • This will lead to severe cases of cancer.

  • People will get multiple and chronic skin diseases.

  • Genetic disorders are also a common consequence of radioactive pollution.

  • Inhalation of air in the region will affect the entire respiration system.

Prevention of Radioactive Pollution

Disposal of radioactive wastes is carried out under thorough supervision and proper safety precaution. However, at times certain discrepancies occur in the line of jobs, and the materials that lead to such consequences of pollution. Hence proper precautions are undertaken. Some of the preventive measures are listed below −

Figure 3: Storage unit of radioactive wastes

  • Scientists are taking measures to convert the liquid nuclear wastes found in nature instead of vitrifying them. Steps are being taken to convert them into immobile rigid substances.

  • Most of the radioactive wastes are sealed in stainless steel canisters guarded within concrete cask for storage.

  • Low-level wasted are to transported and disposed of properly.

  • Reagents are required to be used to reduce the toxicity of the wastes.

  • Radioactive and non-radioactive wastes are never to be mixed.

  • Nuclear products are to be ordered and produced only as per the required necessity.


Nuclear products are used in certain industrial facilities and the radioactive products are found in several working environments, ranging from hospitals, and research facilities to industries. However, measures are required to be taken to ensure the wastes put out of these facilities do not affect the outer environment. Radioactive wastes are found in three types and proper disposal procedures are to be taken as per their associated danger level.


Q1. What is nuclear waste management?

Ans. Safe and proper disposal of the radioactive products coming out of various facilities outlines the process of nuclear waste management. The aspects involve the collection, transport, and proper disposal of radioactive trash so that it does not affect the environment.

Q2. Which organ in the human body is mostly affected by radiation?

Ans. Lymphoid organs and bone marrow are two crucial organs that are readily affected by radiation. Hematopoietic cells are very sensitive to radiation since they regenerate continuously.

Q3. What are the crucial sources of radioactive pollution?

Ans. Nuclear power plants and nuclear weapon testing sites are the major sources of this pollution. Hospitals and other research facilities also contribute low-level radiated waste products.

Updated on: 13-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started