There are three types of radioactive waste produced by nuclear generating stations – low-, intermediate- and high-level waste.
Low-level waste consists of industrial items (such as mops, rags, cloths, paper towels, clothing and floor sweepings) that have become contaminated with low levels of radioactivity during routine cleanup and maintenance activities at nuclear generating stations. Low-level waste contains mostly short-lived radioactivity and can be handled safely with simple precautions.
Intermediate-level waste is more highly radioactive and consists primarily of used reactor core components and resins and filters used to purify reactor water systems.
High-level waste is the used nuclear fuel. When used fuel bundles are removed from the reactor, they are highly radioactive, contain long-lived radioactivity and generate significant heat. High-level waste requires careful management over the very long term.
Under the federal Radioactive Waste Policy Framework, waste owners such as OPG, NB Power, Hydro-Québec and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories are accountable for the low- and intermediate-level waste they create. They are also responsible for the interim storage and management of used nuclear fuel. Under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, the NWMO was created by the waste owners and is responsible for the long-term management of used fuel, with federal government oversight.
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