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The disposal of nuclear waste is quickly becoming the most important issue facing the environmental community today Nearly twenty percent of our nations electricity is being supplied by the approximately 100 nuclear power plants that are in everyday operation in the United States So far almost all of the nuclear waste created by these power plants is being housed in temporary storage facilities at each power plant Although the total volume of nuclear waste produced in one year is small when compared to the amount of other poisonous wastes produced in the same time period the need to find a permanent method of disposing this waste is rapidly growing Nuclear waste is extremely difficult to handle New technologies and advancement in waste treatment processes have made waste disposal safer but it is still not absolutely safe Not only do scientists have to worry about treating and containing the wastes they also have to find sites to store the waste that will not allow the wastes to spread even under the worst circumstancesThere are many classifications of waste Spent nuclear fuel is the radioactive by-product of making electricity at commercial nuclear power plants It is highly radioactive and must be stored in special facilities High-level waste is the by-product from production at defense facilities This form of waste is highly radioactive and contains hazardous chemicals and toxic heavy metals This waste is environmentally hazardous for thousands of years and must be kept in special storage facilities High-level waste accounts for 95 of all the waste produced Transuranic waste is the waste generated from the production of nuclear weapons that contain transuranic elements elements with an atomic number greater than Uranium Some forms of this waste have a half-life of thousands of years and are currently stored in on-site drums Low-level waste is the generic category for waste which does not fit any of the above categories One source of this waste is from irradiated metal parts
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