“Coal Ash is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste”

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So says Monbiot, ostensibly quoting SciAm which doesn’t appear to be responding at present.

Intriguing. True?

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2 Responses to ““Coal Ash is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste””

  1. Simon Rumble Says:

    Define “more” and “radioactive”. The more common thing I’ve heard is that the amount of radioactivity emitted to the local environment is higher from a coal power plant than a nuclear plant. Excepting Chernobyl, Sellafield and 3 Mile Island, presumably.

    Certainly there is a vastly larger quantity of fly ash than the waste produced by a nuke plant, both by volume and by weight. But what does “radioactive” mean? Are we talking high-level or low-level? Alpha or gamma?

    Monbiot’s source appears to be Wikipedia, though the Sci Am link isn’t working for me:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_ash

  2. razcx Says:

    The relevant quote from Monbiot’s article, ostensibly from SciAm:

    > An article in Scientific American last year maintained that levels of ionising
    > radiation in the bones of people living around coal plants are up to six times
    > higher than the levels in people living around atomic power stations

    The key word is “ionising” which is high enough to be damaging (by definition) and can be alpha, beta or gamma. If it’s sufficiently intense to be ionizing, then harm is being done.

    The impacts of the disasters that you mention are clearly bigger than for almost any other industrial plant (Magnitogorsk notwithstanding), assessing the nett impact is difficult. I feel a certain revulsion for nuclear power, but I’m not convinced either way.

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