Monday, March 02, 2009

Coal burning power plants produce more radiation than nuclear power plants

This is actually more than a year old, but it was news to me:
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.


JimBobby said...

Whooee! Dang strange that workers in coal plants don't need to wear radiation exposure badges. Interesting that waste from coal plants does not need to be guarded by paramilitary swat teams to keep it out of the hands of terrorists. Interesting that government and industry has spent billions of dollars on trying to figure out how to deal with radioactive nuclear spent fuel. Interesting that ten minutes exposure to any of the storehouses of spent fuel rods would be deadly.

What you're seeing is cheery-picked data. Just as the nuke industry tells us how safe and clean and affordable nuke energy is while ignoring the toxic legacy of uranium mining, the leaks of radioactive water into lakes, rivers and oceans and the fact that safety means guarding highly radioactive spent fuel for thousands of years.

The nuke industry will compare one tiny part of its life cycle to the entire coal, wind or solar life cycle and then claim the high ground.

Here in Nanticoke, Bruce Power wants to build a new nuke plant. Their chief egghead and propagandist is a nuclear radiation exposure specialist from MacMaster, Prof. Boreham. Boreham is well-skilled in these sorts of half-truths and obfuscations. He's told our local councils that 200 years from now, a person will be able to stand in the presence of a spent fuel rod for one hour and receive the same radiation dose as from a CT scan.

What he doesn't tell anyone is that fuel rods are welded into bundles of 37 and the welding job is designed to stay welded during 18 months at the core of the reactor. Nobody will ever unweld a bundle. The bundles are all stored in locations with many other bundles. Hundreds, even thousands of bundles.

Even if a CT scan were harmless (typically, CT scans deliver up to 400x as much radiation as a medical xray), the disingenuous way in which the nuke industry presents its fear-calming data should be enough to raise serious questions about the veracity of their claims.

Coal's bad. Nukes are a jillion times worse.


Saskboy said...

As JB points out, the life cycle of nuclear makes it much more dangerous to all life than coal burning does. Coal burning may bring about climate change, but the waste it makes (although widely distributed) is still less toxic than nuclear waste if it gets out.

Cliff said...

I viewed this as more of a black mark for coal power than an endorsement of nuclear power.

Popular Posts