“Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future”

During this past month I got around to reading Jeff Goodell‘s book “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future“.  I came across this book after reading “Power To Save The World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy“; it seems appropriate to read up on what’s actually powering us now, instead of the ideal power source.

Jeff Goodell is a contributing editor to both Rolling Stone and The New York Times.  He wrote the New York Times bestseller book “Our Story: 77 Hours That Tested Our Friendship and Our Faith“, which covered the Quecreek Mine accident of 2002.  From this writing experience, he became interested in the coal industry as a whole.  What he finds there is a grim reminder of America’s energy reality.

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Radioactive Material Release – Coal vs. Nuclear Power Plants

I got into a conversation yesterday regarding Nuclear Power generation. In the midst of this conversation, I recalled one of those many facts that I heard in the past and found informative and surprising, yet I had never researched it myself. Thus, I did not bring up the fact to add to the conversation. And today I did the research.

The fact is this: Coal power plants release significantly more radioactive materials into the environment than nuclear power plants.

Here is the best I can find for the primary source, from the Oak Ridge National Lab’s “Review” publication:


In short, coal contains trace elements of many different things. Some of those things are radioactive. Humanity burns allot of coal. Some of it goes up and out the stack of our power plants.

But how to do the numbers work out? You know, it can’t be that much, right? Wrong. Very wrong. According to this article, 100 times the amount of radioactive material is released from a coal plant, versus a nuclear power plant of the same power output rating.

Dang. Breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy.