The spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor are the most radioactive of all nuclear wastes. When all the radiation given off by nuclear waste is tallied, the fuel rods give off 99% of it, in spite of having relatively small volume. There is, as of now, no permanent storage site of spent fuel rods. Temporary storage is being used while a permanent site is searched for and prepared.
Temporary Pool Storage
The rods are extremely hot when they are removed from the reactor core. That is why they are temporarily stored in the pool where the rods go to cool down. It’s not just water in the pool but boric acid as well since the acid absorbs some of the radiation that is released by the radioactive nuclei inside the rods. The problem with this method is that the pool is only so big and that the rods should not touch each other. If they do the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction is possible and it could mean a massive explosion, destroying life in a thousand kilometre radius.
Temporary Dry Storage
Dry storage is the other method used if the pools are reaching their maximum capacity. The radioactive wastes (rods) are stored in reinforced casks or they entomb it in military concrete bunkers. They normally put the rods in the dry storage areas once the rods have cooled down for 5 years in the pool.
A fool proof permanent storage still has to be found for radioactive waste but so far it has been shot into space, planting them deep underneath the ocean and burying it in the middle of the Sahara desert. If it’s buried somewhere in the desert it shouldn’t be close to any life or water (which there isn’t much) since the radioactive waste tends to leak which would affect life around the site.
Who knew storing radioactive waste could be such a mission. Luckily we only have to worry about organising the garage and using stackable storage bins and chrome wire shelving to store our things. Maybe we should send them some…