Coal vs. nuclear showdown: weighing out radioactive impact of coal

By | October 15, 2014

Coal power plants produce radioactive ash – which is released into the environment. This ash releases more radioactivity into the surrounding environment than a nuclear power plant – meaning if you live next to a coal plant, you are exposed to more radioactive particles and have likely ingested more radioactivity than if you lived next to a nuclear power plant. The same applies if you live near a landfill that receives coal ash, or get your tap water from the drainage basin which that landfill feeds.

Certainly, this does not cover the 'what if' situation around a nuclear meltdown. But it does raise the question, what is the environmental and human health impact costs of the two technologies? Could a shift to green technology meet our growing energy demands with a guaranteed minimum power consumption condition?

/via +Vlad Markov

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste
By burning away all the pesky carbon and other impurities, coal power plants produce heaps of radiation

11 thoughts on “Coal vs. nuclear showdown: weighing out radioactive impact of coal

  1. Francois Demers

    Anyone read the article?
    There are few sources and those I found date from 1978.
    Digging a little, I found out that coal ash is about as radioactive as granite and somewhat less than phosphate soil beds.
    Meaning: you could have it for breakfast as far as radiation is concerned (what might kill you is the arsenic in it.)
    This being said, getting electricity from burning coal is not smart: it pollutes the air (coming back down as acid rain) and contributes to global warming.

  2. Per Siden

    +Dirk Reul well, at least the energy business is much more interesting now. In a couple of decades deregulation and internationalization of internal markets have come a long way, we have left behind nationalized, state or oligarch owned power plants, new technologies are developing fast, grids are becoming multi-way rather than one-way distribution.

    The situation complex, there are problems, for example the lack of a market mechanism for capacity, and countries are far from in phase with each other in their adaption. But for a business that hardly used to develop at all, things are now changing with breathtaking speed. Personally I find it both fun and hopeful.

    Nuclear and coal have both served us well in the past, but by today's standards they are the steam engines about to be replaced. The future is spelled smart grids, solid state and direct drive, efficiency and demand response. Let's enjoy the ride.

  3. Dirk Reul

    You make some very good points there, +Per Siden and of course it would be oversimplified to blame it all on Ms. Merkel. We have brought this upon ourselves and of course, nuclear is not the way to generate energy forever. But I would rather have modern nuclear power plants for the times that renewable cannot deliver (nights etc) than coal power. It was ill informed back then, it is ill informed now. But like you said, that ship has sailed and we'd rather continue to run outdated and bad nuclear power plants instead of developing and creating new solutions.

  4. Per Siden

    A choice of plague or cholera? 😉

    +Dirk Reul Tthe German decision to phase out nuclear was made already in 2003, and rectified several times since. I am not overly fond of Frau Merkel but it's making it a tad too simple to blame it all on her. It's true that nuclear energy is not popular in Germany, but the main reason it was ditched is it's inflexibility. You can't ramp nuclear up and down, it's too expensive for that, once built it must operate at 24/7 to cover it's investment costs. The inflexible base load power of nuclear was simply deemed incompatible in the future, with the "Energiwende" and modern decentralized grids. Existing reactors were given generous allotments and are not at all being shut down in a panic or anything like that. I agree it's a difficult decision, but frankly I think they made the right choice. And it was clear already by then they had no national nuclear industry to support any longer either. Time to look ahead, not back.

    Far as I understand only FPU still advocate nuclear energy in Germany and they have lost every influence now. Nuclear is dead in Germany, and probably in the rest of Europe as well.

  5. Francois Demers

    On behalf of the Ukrainian people:
    If you lend us the money, we will build as many nuclear reactors as you want and deliver free electricity forever as payments on the loans.
    We will also store the waste so you never have to worry about it again.

  6. Sophie Wrobel

    Merkel's degree is in physical chemistry, which is actually a branch of physics at her place of study. (Who invents these confusing field names?)

    … at any rate, it means that she should damn well be able to understand how nuclear power works, much more than non-physiscists and non-chemists like myself!

  7. Dirk Reul

    After Fukushima, when Ms. Merkel announced the total move away from nuclear power, I was utterly dismayed. I still am today, she is a Physicist. She surely understand how nuclear power is so much better than coal and yet, we are clearly going for the fossil fuel route and simply buy the evil nuclear power from France.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.