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Answered 2010-02-18 20:05:55

The waste from coal power stations has virtually no radioactive waste where as a

nuclear plants waste is nearly all toxic.

Completely Wrong. All coal waste is toxic. Coal fired power plants chuck out all the radioactive elements that were in the coal that was burned. This is fairly old news from the 70's. Excellent source: .

More facts that are totally ignored by the media as governors and industrial groups lobby to continue to launch toxic, hazardous and poisonous elements and compounds into the air from the stacks, and onto the land downwind.

The following is quoted. There is no copyright on this article at this website. Thanks to ORNL.

Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations

ORNL is a multi-program research and development facility managed by UT-Battelle for the US Department of Energy

"Because existing coal-fired power plants vary in size and electrical output, to calculate the annual coal consumption of these facilities, assume that the typical plant has an electrical output of 1000 megawatts. Existing coal-fired plants of this capacity annually burn about 4 million tons of coal each year. Further, considering that in 1982 about 616 million short tons (2000 pounds per ton) of coal was burned in the United States (from 833 million short tons mined, or 74%), the number of typical coal-fired plants necessary to consume this quantity of coal is 154.

Using these data, the releases of radioactive materials per typical plant can be calculated for any year. For the year 1982, assuming coal contains uranium and thorium concentrations of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively, each typical plant released 5.2 tons of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons of thorium that year. Total U.S. releases in 1982 (from 154 typical plants) amounted to 801 tons of uranium (containing 11,371 pounds of uranium-235) and 1971 tons of thorium. These figures account for only 74% of releases from combustion of coal from all sources.

Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium.

Based on the predicted combustion of 2516 million tons of coal in the United States and 12,580 million tons worldwide during the year 2040, cumulative releases for the 100 years of coal combustion following 1937 are predicted to be:

U.S. release (from combustion of 111,716 million tons):

Uranium: 145,230 tons (containing 1031 tons of uranium-235)

Thorium: 357,491 tons

Worldwide release (from combustion of 637,409 million tons):

Uranium: 828,632 tons (containing 5883 tons of uranium-235)

Thorium: 2,039,709 tons

Radioactivity from Coal Combustion

The main sources of radiation released from coal combustion include not only uranium and thorium but also daughter products produced by the decay of these isotopes, such as radium, radon, polonium, bismuth, and lead. Although not a decay product, naturally occurring radioactive potassium-40 is also a significant contributor.

According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the average radioactivity per short ton of coal is 17,100 millicuries/4,000,000 tons, or 0.00427 millicuries/ton. This figure can be used to calculate the average expected radioactivity release from coal combustion. For 1982 the total release of radioactivity from 154 typical coal plants in the United States was, therefore, 2,630,230 millicuries.

Thus, by combining U.S. coal combustion from 1937 (440 million tons) through 1987 (661 million tons) with an estimated total in the year 2040 (2516 million tons), the total expected U.S. radioactivity release to the environment by 2040 can be determined. That total comes from the expected combustion of 111,716 million tons of coal with the release of 477,027,320 millicuries in the United States. Global releases of radioactivity from the predicted combustion of 637,409 million tons of coal would be 2,721,736,430 millicuries.

For comparison, according to NCRP Reports No. 92 and No. 95, population exposure from operation of 1000-MWe nuclear and coal-fired power plants amounts to 490 person-rem/year for coal plants and 4.8 person-rem/year for nuclear plants. Thus, the population effective dose equivalent from coal plants is 100 times that from nuclear plants. For the complete nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to reactor operation to waste disposal, the radiation dose is cited as 136 person-rem/year; the equivalent dose for coal use, from mining to power plant operation to waste disposal, is not listed in this report and is probably unknown.


Although trace quantities of radioactive heavy metals are not nearly as likely to produce adverse health effects as the vast array of chemical by-products from coal combustion, the accumulated quantities of these isotopes over 150 or 250 years could pose a significant future ecological burden and potentially produce adverse health effects, especially if they are locally accumulated. Because coal is predicted to be the primary energy source for electric power production in the foreseeable future, the potential impact of long-term accumulation of by-products in the biosphere should be considered. "

Personally, more concerned about the complete waste slate, but the radioactive portion always deserves mention.

Simple search by high school chemistry students found the West Virginia coal trace elements shown in an average ppm for nearly 800 samples.

Antimony (Sb)


Arsenic (As)


Barium (Ba)


Beryllium (Be)


Bismuth (Bi)


Boron (B)


Bromine (Br)


Cadmium (Cd)


Cerium (Ce)


Cesium (Cs)


Chlorine (Cl)


Chromium (Cr)


Cobalt (Co)


Copper (Cu)


Dysprosium (Dy)


Erbium (Er)


Europium (Eu)


Fluorine (F)


Gadolinium (Gd)


Gallium (Ga)


Germanium (Ge)


Gold (Au)


Hafnium (Hf)


Holmium (Ho)


Indium (In)


Iridium (Ir)


Lanthanum (La)


Lead (Pb)


Lithium (Li)


Lutetium (Lu)


Manganese (Mn)


Mercury (Hg)


Molybdenum (Mo)


Neodymium (Nd)


Nickel (Ni)


Niobium (Nb)


Praseodymium (Pr)


Rhenium (Re)


Rubidium (Rb)


Samarium (Sm)


Scandium (Sc)


Selenium (Se)


Silver (Ag)


Strontium (Sr)


Tantalum (Ta)


Tellurium (Te)


Terbium (Tb)


Thallium (Tl)


Thorium (Th)


Thulium (Tm)


Tin (Sn)


Tungsten (W)


Uranium (U)


Vanadium (V)


Ytterbium (Yb)


Yttrium (Y)


Zinc (Zn)


Zirconium (Zr)


To determine emissions of these elements just follow the example above with the Thorium and Uranium and factor from those tons.

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