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Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste?

  1. Mar 21, 2011 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 21, 2011 #2
    The title is very misleading. Nuclear wast is contained, coal ash is not. Every effort is made to prevent any form of radiation release from a nuclear plant; the same is not true of a coal burning plant.

    Natural radiation is everywhere. You are radioactive, but only to the extent that is natural for you based on where you live.

    Coal produces a lot of other problems that you don't get with nuclear power, but the potential for radiation at harmful levels is far greater from older nuclear power generation systems.
  4. Mar 21, 2011 #3


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    As Bachmeier said, the title is misleading. The reality is that coal-fired powerpolants release more radiation into he environment than a properly functioning nuclear one. This is due to naturally-occurring trace radioactive elements in the coal which go up the stack when burned.
  5. Mar 24, 2011 #4
    The junk that those coal plants spit into the atmosphere also contribute to lung cancer and emphysema. Millions of people are exposed from it.
  6. Apr 2, 2011 #5
    Coal ash is not, pound-for-pound, as radioactive as nuclear waste (whatever you mean by that) but there are bazillions of times more of it released in to the environment, dumped into rivers, etc., so the overall amount of radioactive contamination released is quite a bit more.
  7. Jun 27, 2011 #6
    The radiological dose that the public gets from coal power is higher than from nuclear power. I think that's what the article is actually trying to say.
  8. Jun 27, 2011 #7
    As long as the nuke plant doesn't go airborne...

    It's a very misleading statement, at least in my opinion. Cars probably produce more CO2 than burning houses, but there'll nobody die through poisoning just by standing near the road. But if you're in a burning house, the gas will probably kill you.

    Same goes for coal and nuke plants. Healthy coal plants release more radioactivity than healthy nuke plants. Burning coal plants release not significantly more radioactivity, while burning nuke plants may release enough to kill you.
  9. Jun 27, 2011 #8


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    Did a rough calculation.

    World Coal consumed per year is 6E12 kg Per Coal Institute
    Ash is 10% of original mass of coal
    Uranium content in ash is approx 12 ppm (big variance in this number so I picked a medium low value)
    Half life of U238 is 4.47e9 yr (assumed U238)
    Total Uranium released in fly ash is about 7E6 kg
    Activity of U released is 9e13 Bq

    Coal also releases Th232 and Radon gas.

    If my numbers are right, that is amazing!
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