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Low level nuclear waste represents about 90% of all radioactive wastes. It includes ordinary items, such as cloth, bottles, plastic, wipes, etc. that come into contact with some radiation. These low level wastes are generated anywhere radioisotopes are produced or used — in nuclear power stations, in your local hospital and in your dentist’s office, in university research laboratories, in manufacturing and food irradiation facilities.
It is not dangerous to handle, and can easily be disposed off in a dry engineered landfill. There, low level wastes are less dangerous than the chemical and organic wastes from our homes that are sent to municipal landfills. The distinguishing factor of low level waste is that it contains virtually no alpha emitters. Alpha radiation is more dangerous, and, therefore, needs better protection.
For regulatory purposes, low level wastes are classified into three classes (A, B, and C), according to the activity of the waste, the concentration, and the types of radioisotopes it contains. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has set requirements for each type, so that they are disposed properly and safely. Class A (about 95% of all low level waste), contains radionuclides with the lowest concentrations and the shortest half-lives. Classes B and C contain greater concentrations of radionuclides with longer half-lives, and must meet stricter disposal requirements than Class A waste.
Examples of low-level wastes:
Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information of the American Nuclear Society
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