It is depended on the makeup of the nuclear waste. Like most elements, the radionuclides have specific half lifes (the time it takes for half of an element to break down), and in many cases, some elements will break down from one toxic form to another. Cesium-137, one of the hazardous elements released in the Chernobyl accident, has a half life of 30 years, but it decays into Barium-137 which is also radioactive. Barium 137 has a half life of only 2.55 minutes though… So as you can see, it is all very complicated.
As an empirical example, many of the places affected by nuclear waste (Chernobyl, Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands…) are still heavily contaminated and people are still excluded from some areas. People do live in areas affected by contamination, provided they are able to keep their doses low, but the contamination is still there.
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