Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries

Research and development towards the reduction of these wastes are encouraged, for example, finding alternative uses of the radioactive wastes. Sensible disposal of radioactive waste is necessary because these wastes show variability in the extent of radioactivity and radioactive substances. Therefore, it is important to establish a system of classification that enables the treatment and disposal of a given category of wastes in a certain way. Therefore, the classification of radioactive waste is vital in ensuring that the third principle of the ‘Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy’ is fulfilled.

In Japan, radioactive wastes are placed into two key classes depending on the level of radioactivity (“Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries: Japan” 2). These two classes are high-level radioactive waste (HLW) and low-level radioactive waste (LLW). Low-level wastes are further subdivided into four subclasses based on their origin. These subclasses include waste from nuclear reactors, waste from the utilization of radioactive substances and uranium, waste from research facilities (RI/laboratory wastes), and radioactive waste that generates heat (TRU waste) (Radioactive Waste Management Project Group 48). Waste from nuclear reactors is further divided into three groups, which are relatively higher radioactive LLW, relatively lower radioactive LLW, and very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW).

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High-level wastes include fluids that come from the renewal of used nuclear fuel as well as the solid wastes that arise from the transformation of the liquid wastes into the glass. These wastes have vast quantities of the outcomes of fission. All other wastes that do not fall under HLWs are classified under LLWs. Of the nuclear reactor wastes, VLLW has negligible levels of radioactivity and can be discarded near the surface of the ground without requiring to be covered up by specialized constructions.

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