In the Classroom

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Issues in Transportation of Radioactive Wastes

The transportation of radioactive wastes to a disposal or storage facility is often perceived as a dangerous undertaking when considering that highway and railway accidents do occur.  By modeling the moving of a radioactive material within your school, students will be able to better visualize the issues addressed in actual rad-waste shipments to insure safe transportation of these materials.

  1. Bring a radioactive material into your classroom in a plain brown lunch bag.  Possible sources could include lantern mantles, fiesta ware, or a smoke detector.  For additional information, check the following sites.
  2. Explain to the class that the lunch bag contains radioactive materials you wish to move to a suitable location, outside of your classroom but within your school, where it can be safely kept for the time being.    If a geiger counter is available, you may additionally want to monitor the outside of the lunch bag for the students to later have them address the appropriate packaging of the material.
  3. Depending on what computer resources are available, have the students research the actual transportation of radioactive wastes.
  4. Divide the classroom into groups and ask each group to come up with their plan for the transportation of your radioactive material.  Give each group a large piece of butcher or construction paper to outline their plan.  The students plan should include the following points:

a. What site in the school will be the final location for the radioactive material?

b. How should the material be packaged to insure that it does not become damaged during transportation?  Encourage them to use readily available materials to them.

c. How will the material be transported from your classroom to site including:

Having the students share their results and have the class determine which plan, or which portion of the various plans, best matches the guidelines used in the actual transportation of radioactive wastes.  Have the class come to a consensus as to an overall class plan and then ask them to write a paragraph to answer the following question(s):


  1. Should the radioactive material in the brown paper bag be transported to the placement site or should it be kept in the paper bag in the classroom?  Give two reason to support your answer.
  2. Can the radioactive material in the brown paper bag be safely transported to the placement site without being involved in an accident or becoming damage?  Give two reasons to support your answer.

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