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Radioactive Waste

Waste Water Treatment

  1. James Crocker

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.ww156

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Crocker, J. 2005. Radioactive Waste. Water Encyclopedia. 1:802–805.

Author Information

  1. Richland, Washington

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Radioactive contamination as it relates to drinking water and other water sources is explained. Radioactivity may come from natural or manmade sources. Natural processes include production of tritium in Earth's upper atmosphere and transport to the ground via rainwater. When Earth's crust was formed, other radionuclides were formed, including uranium, strontium, and radium. Manmade sources of radioactivity potentially include water effluent from nuclear facilities, medical sources, and nuclear fallout from nuclear weapons testing. Specific regulations used in the United States and general guidelines from the World Health Organization governing radioactive release limits are listed. Specific radionuclides of concern in water sources include uranium, radium, radon, strontium, and tritium. Treatment technologies to remove these contaminants to acceptable release limits are outlined. Treatment technologies ordinarily used for drinking water treatment remove most of the radioactive contamination in water sources, if such contamination is present. These technologies include membrane filtration processes, such as reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, and electrodialysis; air stripping, carried out in tray towers, bubble columns, or packed columns; chemical precipitation; lime softening; ion exchange; and activated carbon treatment.


  • radioactive waste;
  • radioactivity;
  • radioactive contamination;
  • water treatment;
  • uranium;
  • radium;
  • radon;
  • tritium;
  • air stripping;
  • precipitation;
  • regulations;
  • radiation;
  • nuclear;
  • ion exchange;
  • activated carbon