Submitted by amyguinan on December 16, 2010 – 5:17pm
Coal ash, the waste produced by coal plants, is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the coal ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.
At issue is coal’s content of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. They occur in such trace amounts in natural, or “whole,” coal that they aren’t a problem. But when coal is burned into coal ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels.
Coal ash is currently exempt from toxic waste rules and instead can be reused in almost limitless applications under the “beneficial use” rule. Around the country, it’s used, unmonitored, in road construction and to some extent in running tracks, including at schools. It’s used to make everything from carpets to fertilizer to cinder blocks, and sometimes gypsum board and roofing shingles.
The EPA is being urged at a minimum to adopt the hazardous waste classification for coal ash when it decides between the proposals currently under consideration. A decision from the EPA related to fly ash classification is expected in early 2011.
For more information cabout community response to coal ash, click here: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/12/two-years-after-tennessee-spill-coal-ash-still-pollutes-nationwide.php