In the United States HLW (High-Level Waste) is classification by the means through which the waste is created, while in other nations it is the content which defines the classification. In other words, radioactive waste in other nations is defined by its radiation levels while in the United States it is the origin that defines it. 

According to The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA, P.L. 97-425) high-level radioactive waste is defines as:

“the highly radioactive material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, including liquid waste produced directly in reprocessing and any solid material derived from such liquid waste that contains fission products in sufficient concentrations; and other highly radioactive material that the [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission, consistent with existing law, determines by rule requires permanent isolation.”

According to this definition it is the burning of uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor gives rise to what is known as high-level waste (HLW). It contains the fission products and transuranic elements that are generated in the core of the reactor. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) estimates that over 95% of radioactivity that is produced is HLW and it stems from the production of electricity. In short, when uranium fuel is no longer efficient in splitting its atoms for heat to produce electricity we we are left with HLW. It is for this reason that HLW is both hot and highly radioactive and requires long term cooling and shielding. It should be noted that there are two kinds of HLW: as fuel itself, or the separated waste that comes from reprocessing the spent fuel. 

With time radioactive waste becomes harmless through decay, and HLW is no exception to this. The amount of time it takes for the radioactivity of a particular radionuclide to decrease is classified as either long half-life or short half-life. Half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms in a radionuclide to decay and as a result losing half of its radioactivity. For instance, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days resulting in a rapid decay of radioactivity, whereas plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years and uranium-238 has a half-life of  4.5 billion years, both resulting in hazardous radioactivity for a much longer period of time. Therefore, spent fuel must be controlled, isolated, and maintained for thousands of years. 

Since HLW is very hazardous to the environment and humans, there is a high cost associated in safely managing and maintaining HLW. According to the WNA, about $28 billion dollars has been paid to the U.S. waste fund by electricity consumers. The US$28 billion is a fund allocated by consumers for the use of electricity alone and does not limit the other funds that contribute to the cost of managing and maintaining HLW, which far exceeds the US$28 billion in the U.S. alone.

​There are other dangers associated to HLW. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the self-sustained fissioning and splitting of the atoms of uranium and plutonium can cause a nuclear reaction. Furthermore, according to the NRC, up until 2002 there were about 160,000 spent fuel assemblies containing 45,000 tons of spent fuel of HLW.

Greenuke Technology understands very well the dangers as well as the benefits associated with nuclear power/energy. We also understand that the dangers and costs associated in maintaining and managing HLW must be reduced drastically, and it is for that reason that we have built a unique and compact solid-liquid separation system that accomplishes just that. Moreover, given that we are dealing with the elements and the science of nuclear engineering the classification of the radioactive waste is irrelevant to what we are capable of accomplishing. Therefore, we are able to reduce and treat HLW based on both a United States or international classification.

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