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Sellafield's nuclear waste measured in El Reg units

How many Swatches per Jub is intermediate level, again?

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A National Audit Office report into cleaning up Sellafield nuclear plant - described as Blighty's "largest and most hazardous nuclear site" - has concluded there is "considerable uncertainty over the time required and cost of completing facilities to treat and store highly radioactive material held in deteriorating legacy ponds and silos".

In summary, Sellafield is a bit of a fiasco, but we at El Reg are less concerned about that and more interested in exactly just how much radioactive crap is lying about.

As regular readers know, "legacy ponds and silos" are not accepted Vulture Central standards for volume. Mercifully, the report goes on to note:

The total volume of high- and intermediate-level radioactive waste stored on the site is 68,000 m3, which would fill 27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

So there you have it. If you're new to Reg standards, which also include the linguine, the milliWales and the jub, here's the lovely Lucy Sherriff with the complete run-down:

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Bootnote

The report doesn't give the relative proportions of intermediate- and high-level waste in the 27 pools, but if amounts at Sellafield are typical for the UK right now one can take it that almost all the waste - say 26-and-a-half pools - is intermediate-level.

Most intermediate level waste is barely radioactive at all. If you put a completely legal luminous watch in a barrel containing half a tonne of dirt, that dirt would technically be intermediate-level nuclear waste according to the regulations (pdf). Or to put in the official Reg units, the intermediate level of nuclear waste is one Swatch per hundred-odd Jubs.

Despite the fact that it is not radiologically dangerous in any realistic way, "intermediate level nuclear waste" must nonetheless be expensively processed, packaged, securely stored and one day eventually disposed of in a special geological vault. It's projected to make up 99.7 per cent of the UK's "higher activity" waste in future - that is waste which you aren't allowed to just chuck into a landfill - and as such it has accounted and will account for the great majority of the cost of nuclear waste management.

Ever wonder why nuclear power never became too cheap to meter? This sort of thing is why. -Ed

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