How is high-level radioactive liquid waste
(from reprocessing spent fuel) cooled?

To allow plutonium and other fissile materials to be extracted, spent reactor fuel must be reprocessed --chopped up and dissolved in acid. This results in millions of gallons of high-level radioactive liquid wastes which -- unless cooled -- would overheat and contaminate the environment. The following photograph and text is taken from the 1976 "Flowers Report".

photo caption: ''The stainless stool cooling coils for a new high-level fission product storage tank before being lowered into position at Windscale. There are seven independent circuits'' [ of this kind ] .
''The concentrated liquid is kept in special stainless steel storage tanks. These are exceedingly elaborate, and correspondingly expensive, structures.

''They are of double construction to contain any possible leaks (none have occurred so far), seven independent cooling coils are provided to remove the decay heat (see photo), the air above the liquid is taken off through filters to the atmosphere and, in the tanks of most recent design, provision is made for blowing air through the liquid to keep any solids in suspension rather than allowing them to settle on the tank floor.

''Removal of the decay heat over periods of a few hundred years is essential; failure to do this would cause the solution to boil dry and the heat generated would then disseminate volatile materials to the atmosphere and cause widespread contamination....'' [Flowers Report, p. 64]

Source: Nuclear Energy and the Environment

Sixth Report of the UK
Royal Commission on the Environment

by nuclear physicist Sir Brian Flowers
(HMSO London, 1976)

[Findings on Uranium Tailings]

[Findings on High-Level Waste]


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