Assessing the options, disposal, recycling or re-use of UK legacy radioactive metals and depleted uranium

  • Neil Kemp

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research presented in this thesis investigates scenarios to preserve scarce radioactive waste disposal capacity of current and future UK repositories. Simplified life cycle assessment (LCA) and cost estimates are used to evaluate end-of-life options for UK radioactive metals and depleted uranium. The thesis builds on the work of previous authors by considering a wider range of potential environmental impacts and by focussing in more detail on the processes inherent in waste management and decommissioning to support future decision making. Credible disposal and treatment scenarios are developed for LCA of UK radioactive metals - initially as a hypothetical case study - then applying the research method to the entire UK radioactive metals inventory. These scenarios identify key processes for the decontamination and melting of radioactive metals for recycling in open markets or for products to re-use in the nuclear industry. The thesis uses the experience gained from investigating the UK metals inventory to explore limiting scenarios for the disposal of the UK's depleted uranium, assuming that it is classified as a future waste. The metals inventory research confirms that disposal and 'single-use' steel waste container impacts dominate the overall environmental impacts and financial costs - the impacts and costs of low level waste transport are negligible. Significant reductions in impacts and costs can be achieved by treating UK radioactive metals for recycling and re-use. The depleted uranium research indicates that the proposed current baseline for disposal is not optimal - impacts are dominated by disposal volume and other packaging options offer significant volume reduction - the environmental impacts and costs of packaging depleted uranium for the long-term storage are negligible. The thesis offers recommendations for industry and for future research for number of possible longer-term management options for UK radioactive metals and depleted uranium.
Date of Award16 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorRebecca Lunn (Supervisor) & Valerie Belton (Supervisor)

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