Nuclear Waste Current Affairs - 2020

Stable form of Plutonium discovered accidentally

Scientists led by Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden Rossendorf have found new compound of Plutonium unexpectedly in France. The team was actually trying to create plutonium dioxide nano particles using different precursors. In the process, the plutonium at its pentavalent state showed a peculiar behavior. The scientists then learnt that the strange behavior of Plutonium at its pentavalent state was because it was stable! The team confirmed its stability using Pu M4 edge technology.

The experiment was repeated after 3 months and the element showed the same behavior. The scientists thus confirmed that Plutonium exhibited stability properties at its pentavalent state.


  • The unstable radioactive dangerous plutonium that is predominantly used in nuclear applications are tricky to transport, store and dispose.
  • The scientists were in the process of creating Plutonium Dioxide as it is relatively stable as compared to other radioactive materials. It does not dissolve in water
  • The major drawback of Plutonium waste is that when dumped underground, they contaminate water table to a radius of 10 km.

India generates around 4 tonnes/GW nuclear waste per year: Government

Government has announced that around 4 tonnes of nuclear waste per gigawatt (GW) (1000 MW) is generated annually. This waste is similar to the amount of waste generated internationally by other countries. It was announced by Minister of State for Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh in a written response to a question in Lok Sabha.

Nuclear waste

In India any radioactive waste is disposed by following the Atomic Energy (Safe Disposal of Radioactive) Rules 1987. These rules are promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.

  • Generally, nuclear waste is generated from two kinds of facilities- Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) and Spent Fuel Processing Facilities.
  • However, in India spent fuel is not considered as a waste as it has adopted close fuel cycle option, which involves reprocessing and recycling of the spent fuel. Thus it is not disposed.
  • In case of Spent fuel generated from NPPs, it is cooled for a minimum period of 5 years before taking it up for reprocessing. During the reporcessing of spent fuel for recovering of valuable elements, the very small quantity of radioactive fission products (waste) is isolated.

This waste is then immobolised in suitable glass matrix in solid state through vitrification and stored in interim storage facility for initial cooling and surveillance. Then it is disposed at a geological disposal facility.