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:

http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

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.