Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coal Ash: The Glowing National Security Threat

Coal Ash: The Glowing National Security Threat: "Like the proverbial broken clock, the nuclear industry is occasionally right, as when it charges that a coal plant releases more radiation than a nuclear power plant. The gloat relies on a narrow frame, but it is true that burning coal concentrates naturally occurring radioactive materials including uranium and thorium--along with heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead. When filtered out by smokestack control equipment, the toxins do not magically disappear. Rather, they accumulate in the slag that remains, so the cleaner the air, the filthier and more radioactive the coal ash. Linked to cancer, organ failure, and other serious health problems, coal ash from U.S. power plants is building up in some 900 lagoons, old mines and quarries in almost every state. Sixty-seven of 584 U.S. coal ash dump sites have leaked, contaminating nearby earth and groundwater. Some slag--heavy metal, uranium and all--is recycled into roads, concrete and wallboard. Around the world, the 6 billion tons of coal burned annually creates 650 million tons of coal ash. China, which unveils a new coal facility every seven to 10 days, generates more than half that total, and adds it to the 2.7 billion tons of coal combustion wastes it…


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