Radioactive wastes are wastes that contain radioactive material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-products of nuclear powergeneration and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine. Radioactive waste ishazardous to most forms of life and the environment, and is regulated by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment.
Radioactivity diminishes over time, so waste is typically isolated and stored for a period of time until it no longer poses a hazard. The period of time waste must be stored depends on the type of waste. Low-level waste with low levels of radioactivity per mass or volume(such as some common medical or industrial radioactive wastes) may need to be stored for only hours, days, or months, while high-level wastes (such as spent nuclear fuel or by-products of nuclear reprocessing) must be stored for thousands of years. Current major approaches to managing radioactive waste have been segregation and storage for short-lived wastes, near-surface disposal for low and some intermediate level wastes, and deep burial or transmutation for the long-lived, high-level wastes.
A summary of the amounts of radioactive wastes and management approaches for most developed countries are presented and reviewed periodically as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.