Nuclear pollution is caused by a range of human activities that relate to the creation of fuel for nuclear energy and the construction of nuclear weapons. The process of mining and processing uranium ores to create fuel for nuclear power and weapons also generates byproducts that are radioactive.
As of 2014, the largest amount of nuclear pollution was generated during the middle of the 20th century due to detonations of nuclear weaponry. The weapons were detonated in combat during the end of World War II and as part of various weapons testing and experimentation processes. The production of nuclear weapons also generates a minimal amount of radiation due to the radioactive materials used in the process.
The handling and disposal of nuclear waste generated from nuclear power plants typically generate low to medium levels of radiation pollution over time. Nuclear waste is generally treated and disposed of in remote areas, such as abandoned mines or remote caves. However, pollution generated by these wastes can spread into the soil, water and air around the storage location over time as both natural and artificial shields deteriorate.
Nuclear accidents, such as those in Chernobyl in 1986 and Three Mile Island in 1979, can also lead to significant amounts of radiation pollution being dispersed into the air and the area surrounding a nuclear plant.