What is nuclear waste?

Radioactive waste means a material, item or structure that contains radioactive substances, has no use and which, due to its radioactivity, must be rendered harmless.

Typically, radioactive waste cannot be disposed of; rather, it must be isolated from living environments in a reliable manner. The activity of the waste nevertheless decreases by itself through radioactive decay, and the requirements set for the isolation of waste depend on, in addition to the activity level, on the half-life of the prevalent radionuclides.

The use of nuclear energy and the production of nuclear weapons generate large amounts of radioactive waste, referred to as nuclear waste. In Finland, nuclear waste is primarily generated in the nuclear power plants in Loviisa and Olkiluoto. Small amounts are also generated in the research reactor located in Otaniemi. The Otaniemi research reactor is currently in the decommissioning phase and thus, it is generating decommissioning waste. Nuclear waste is subject to nuclear energy legislation.

Other radioactive waste accumulates in connection with extractive industried, the industrial sector, healthcare and in research facilities which use sources of radiation. The amounts and activity of such waste are minor compared to nuclear waste, excepting extractive industries where the amounts of waste may be large. They are subject to radiation legislation.

Because practically all materials contain radioactive substances, it is important to define what is radioactive waste and what can be considered conventional waste. The basis for any such definition is whether the waste can generate radiation doses that exceed the level considered insignificant.

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  • Jarkko Kyllönen / Senior Inspector
    Tel. +358975988728