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Nuclear Graphitic Waste Recycling

NDB > Nuclear Graphitic Waste Recycling

Nuclear Graphite Waste Recycling

Graphite Waste Classification, Amount And Cost

A nuclear reactor has several safety measures to keep us safe.


One of them is graphite moderators and reflectors. These components will absorb the excess radiation coming out from the nuclear fuel.


This prevents the nuclear reaction from going out of control. However, this graphite over the years of exposure to radiation becomes activated and becomes radioactive in itself. Therefore the graphite moderators and reflectors are now considered as nuclear waste in itself that requires proper nuclear waste disposal.

More than 100 nuclear power plants in the UK (Magnox and AGRs), France (UNGGs), former USSR (RBMK), US (HTR) and Spain uses graphite moderators. All of which requires storage and appropriate nuclear waste disposal once used. Therefore there is a significant volume of nuclear graphite present globally.


All of which requires a storage solution. However, achieving this is no easy task. The scale of the problem is so large that organizations like the IAEA see it as a significant issue. For example, a typical reactor contains about 2,000 tonnes of graphite. Therefore if you were to store nuclear graphite of even one reactor, it requires a sizeable amount of land. Not only that, nuclear graphite emits radiation for thousands of years. Thus, it requires not only a vast amount of land but a near-permanent solution.

Not only that IAEA the global governing body of nuclear matters has also said that. Due to the nuclear graphite’s physical and chemical characteristics. Most storage sites cannot accept them.


Globally, there are 86,000 tonnes in the UK, 60,000 tonnes in Russia, 55,000 tonnes in the US, 23,000 tonnes in France and 27,000 tonnes from other nations.

Global total graphite mass in graphite moderated reactors

So what exactly is nuclear waste? What is nuclear waste definition? In short, anything that releases radiation that is not wanted. This definition varies depending on the country. However, in general, it falls under one of the following classifications. Very Low-Level Waste, Low-Level Waste, Intermediate Level Waste, and High-Level Waste.


Nuclear graphite is Intermediate Level Waste under most nations’ guidelines. The significance of this is storage cost. Intermediate Level Waste costs approximately US$18.6k per cubic meter to store depending on the country. Therefore, to store the estimated 112,646 cubic meters of radioactive graphite currently present in the world. It would cost the taxpayers about US$2.095 billion.

Global graphite moderated reactors total output (MW, thermal)

The global number of graphite moderated reactors

The global inventory of nuclear graphite

Total number of reactors around the world by type

Total power generated (MW) by reactors per type