The placement of waste in a nuclear facility
where isolation, environmental protection and human control are provided with the intent
that the waste will be retrieved at a later time.
The primary distinction between "storage" and "disposal" is the phrase "with the intent
that the waste will be retrieved at a later time". If waste retrieval is not intended, then it is "disposal".
Radioactive wastes are typically stored for one or more of the following reasons: to allow them to decay to lower radioactivity levels; to temporarily hold them awaiting processing (or until a processing method has been developed); or to temporariliy hold them awaiting disposal (or until a disposal facility has been constructed). Each of these reasons may impose slightly different restrictions on storage in terms of length of time, physical form of the waste, radioactivity levels, etc.
"Storage for decay" is a cost effective way to manage short lived, low level radioactive wastes. Due to the physical laws of nature, the radioactivity reduces with time. After 10 half-lives the level of radioactivity has reduced by a factor of 1024, typically to near background levels. For the short lived radioisotopes typically used in medicine and research, this storage period for complete decay may be only a few weeks to a few months. After this time, the waste is no longer radioactive and can be disposed of as conventional waste (of course, taking into account any other hazards that the waste might pose, such as biological hazards). For other wastes, such as spent nuclear fuel, the "storage for decay" period may be many hundreds of thousands of years. However, it is important to note that all radioactivity will eventually decay.
Links to operating facilities are marked with . For additional information
about the sites (e.g. "unofficial" information posted by other organizations),
try a web search using the facility name, location and/or operating organization.
Some web sites may not be in English. See index here for language codes, such as JP / EN .