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Low level waste

Low-level waste (LLW) is a term used to describe nuclear waste that does not fit into the categorical definitions for high-level waste (HLW), spent nuclear fuel (SNF), transuranic waste (TRU), or certain byproduct materials known as 11e(2) wastes, such as uranium mill tailings. In essence, it is a definition by exclusion, and LLW is that category of radioactive wastes that do not fit into the other categories. If LLW is mixed with hazardous wastes, then it has a special status as Mixed Low-Level Waste (MLLW) and must satisfy treatment, storage, and disposal regulations both as LLW and as hazardous waste. While the bulk of LLW is not highly radioactive, the definition of LLW does not include references to its activity, and some LLW may be quite radioactive, as in the case of radioactive sources used in industry and medicine.



The strict definition for LLW is made in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and agreement states regulates LLW that is produced from commercial activities such as nuclear power, and industrial and medical applications of radioactivity.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is self-regulating, and manages its own LLW, most of which is byproducts of the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. DOE regulates the handling of all its radioactive wastes under DOE Order 435.1 Radioactive Waste Management.


Depending on who "owns" the waste, its handling and disposal is regulated differently. The NRC as yet has no LLW disposal sites under its direct supervision. The DOE has dozens of LLW sites under management. The largest of these exist at DOE Reservations around the country (e.g. the Hanford Reservation, Savannah River Site, Nevada Test Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, to name the most significant).

LLW should not be confused with high-level waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF), the disposal of both of which is slated for Yucca Mountain or some similar yet-to-be-developed repository. LLW should also not be confused with transuranic waste (TRU). TRU wastes from the nuclear weapons complex is currently disposed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, though other sites are considering on-site disposal of particularly difficult to manage TRU wastes.

See also


  • Fentiman, Audeen W. and James H. Saling. Radioactive Waste Management. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2002. Second ed.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Low_level_waste". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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