As of July 1, 1971, approximately 100 million kilowatts of nuclear power-plant capacity was in operation or under construction and/or contract. During the 1960s, an extensive research, development, and demonstration program was carried out on the treatment and disposal of all types of gaseous, liquid, and solid radioactive wastes. Geochemical research coupled with extensive field exploration and demonstration studies have been carried out on several deep disposal systems for radioactive wastes including the application of hydrofracturing techniques in bedded shale for low-heat producing wastes and the use of bedded salt and crystalline bedrock for highly radioactive wastes.
The Atomic Energy Commission has adopted a regulatory policy which requires that all high-level liquid wastes from licensed irradiated fuel reprocessing plants must be solidified and shipped to a national respository on land owned and controlled by the Federal Government. A tentative selection of a site near Lyons, Kansas, has been made for an initial salt-mine respository for the demonstration of long-term storage for both solid high-level and long-lived alpha-contaminated wastes.
Because of a general requirement for adequate monitoring to assure the safe and effective operation of a deep well injection system, this method has generally not been used for disposal of radioactive wastes. It appears that injection into deep permeable formations may be a practical solution for the disposal of large quantities of tritium-bearing wastes from water reactors and nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in the future. Additional research is also required on the potential deep disposal of noble gases such as krypton-85 from reactor and reprocessing plant off-gas streams.