Radiation Pollution can be controlled and prevented at various levels, including the handling and treatment of radiation waste, the control and mitigation of nuclear accidents, as well as the control and minimization of personal exposure to radiation at an individual level.
The treatment of radiation waste cannot be done through degradation by chemical or biological processes. Additionally, many radioactive materials have very long half-times (time necessary for half of the material to degrade or transform into non-radioactive materials) and thus radiation waste may pose a risk for many years after it was produced. Basically, there are only a few options for radiation waste treatment involving:
- Containment of the waste in radiation-shielded containers usually buried underground
- Isolation of radiation waste in remote locations such as remote caves or abandoned mines - which may also involve the use of some kind of barriers (shields),
- When the first two alternatives are not possible, the waste may be diluted until background values are achieved.
Heat and Radiation Pollution
Basically, radiation is a method of heat transfer. While radiation may be generated in any conditions, the heat increases the amount of radiation and thus may increase the health risk. For example, radiation is concentrated in the ash due to burning processes. Also, the higher the heat, the higher the energy of radiation produced (e.g., UV rays are produced by hot bodies such as the sun). This is why radiation waste should be stored in cold places, away from any heating source.
In the U.S., environmental standards designed to protect human health from radiation are issued by EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency), along with guidance for federal agencies related to radiation exposure standards/limits. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the federal agency responsible for implementing some of the EPA’s regulation and standards. The Department of Energy (DOE) implements the standards at their facilities.
Individual Prevention Measures
At individual levels, there are measures you may take to prevent and/or reduce radiation pollution that may affect you and your family:
- First, testing of your home for radon may be done by each person using inexpensive testing kits or by specialized consulting services. If radiation seems to be an issue (a higher than background value of radon in the home is found), a preferred radon reduction technique is the installation of a special system called active soil depressurization (ASD). This system contains a vent pipe with an inline centrifugal fan that operates continuously to vent radon and other intruding gases from beneath the house. Thus, the system may be efficient to block the intrusion into homes not only of radon, but also of other toxic chemicals (non-radioactive) that may get from the subsurface into indoor breathing air.
- Also, a good way of avoiding radiation exposure is to choose an appropriate location for your home, away from the main sources of radiation pollution sources.