Katherine Donaldson (katharos) wrote,
Katherine Donaldson

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Radioactivity from Coal Combustion

I was reading comments on an entry at No Impact Man, and I came across some assertions that seemed to be too ridiculous to be true, that coal plants put far more radioactive elements into the environment than nuclear plants. But they listed a government report as a source, so I went and read it. It was really interesting. Here's a quote:
"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."

One of the claims in this report is that coal power is cheaper than nuclear power because there are fewer regulations on what coal burning power plants can release into the atmosphere, and that there are known technologies to capture the radioactive material that they currently release. This report was written in the mid 90's, maybe things have gotten better? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe I should be pro-nuclear power. Certainly I am pro-coal-plant-regulation.

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