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Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

Written By krishna on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 5:03 AM

……Over the past few decades, however, a series of studies has called these stereotypes into question. Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly 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. ………Fly ash uranium sometimes leaches into the soil and water surrounding a coal plant, affecting cropland and, in turn, food.

People living within a "stack shadow"—the area within a half- to one-mile (0.8- to 1.6-kilometer) radius of a coal plant's smokestacks—might then ingest small amounts of radiation. Fly ash is also disposed of in landfills and abandoned mines and quarries, posing a potential risk to people living around those areas. …….The result: estimated radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities. At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals' bones at around 18 millirems (thousandths of a rem, a unit for measuring doses of ionizing radiation) a year.

Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area,radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants. ….. that individuals living near coal-fired installations are exposed to a maximum of 1.9 millirems of fly ash radiation yearly. To put these numbers in perspective, the average person encounters 360 millirems of annual "background radiation" from natural and man-made sources, including substances in Earth's crust, cosmic rays, residue from nuclear tests and smoke detectors.”

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ashis-
more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste
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