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Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/25/2008 7:47 PM

Is coal the answer for power generation ?

Food for consideration can be found here:

The Tennessee coal sludge spill occurred on December 22, 2008, when hundreds of millions of gallons of coal fly ash slurry escaped after an earthen dike broke at a 40-acre (16 ha) waste retention pond, one of three at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee. The coal-fired power plant, located in the city of Kingston, uses retention ponds to store the ash, a byproduct of coal combustion. The sludge traveled downhill, covering up to 400 acres (160 ha) of the surrounding land, damaging homes and flowing into nearby waterways such as the Emory River and Clinch River (tributaries of the Tennessee River). It is the largest fly ash spill in United States history.

Another example of fossil fuels to consider !

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#1

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/26/2008 12:36 AM

I heard of that story on the news today. A nasty situation, at best. The usual, the power company says there's no problem, the EPA says otherwise. It looks like even nuclear is much safer than coal plants, due to regulations.

We're stuck with coal power generation for a while, and that's fine. Company's do the very minimum to stay in business, often at the publics expensive. That's not fine, and if they want to be viable for the future, they really have to get their act together.

Poor, or nonexistent, safety practices caused this catastrophic failure. Will they ever lean that preventative maintenance will save them money in the long run?

We just had major power outages here in the north east due to an ice storm. Many people have not had electricity for more that 2 weeks. I blame the power company's for about 90% of this. They simply don't do preemptive maintenance any more. There was a time when crews would clear branches away from wires all summer long. They haven't done that in a long time. They blame the outage on an act of God, but most of it is a sin of omission on their part. Same thing with this coal plant.

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#2

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/26/2008 7:51 AM

Whether we like it or not, coal will be a major part of our energy program for a very long time to come; there simply is no viable alternative. The Kingston plant was badly managed. I have worked (as a contractor) in coal-fired power plants where no fly ash ever touched the ground. It went directly into trucks to be hauled to a neutralization site, then to strip mine recovery sites.

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#3

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/26/2008 12:44 PM

Typical greed oriented low brow conduct

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#4

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/26/2008 5:27 PM

GAH, NOT AGAIN!!!

You would think people would learn after the last time this happened.

Everything is safe until people start cutting corners to save money.

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#5

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/27/2008 12:00 AM

The latest is that the fly ash sludge spill is ~ 1 billion gallons. That's just the spill! OK. Get your calculators out. How much coal does one have to burn to create 1 billion gallons of fly ash sludge? The last I had heard, fly ash was still considered carcinogenic. There were also a significant number of deaths around a coal burning power plant that were attributed to fly ash in the air.

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#6

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/27/2008 1:31 AM

Industry has come a long way in advancing clean coal technology at least as far as burning the stuff goes. Disposing of the ash is another matter. Some of the ash can be blended in with asphalt and other aggregates and be used to pave roads. Most of the ash has to be disposed of in strip mines etc. In my state we had quite a few coal burning plants in the past - most of them now burn oil and/or natural gas to comply with SO2 emissions. Like one of the posters in this thread said "the ash never touched the ground" in plants that he saw. It can be done but some companies try to do it cheaply and improperly. The violators should be fined, jailed, and shut down and be required to clean up the mess that they created. What really amazes me is the fact that this huge "lake" of toxic slurry was allowed to exist at all. The Federal Gov't mandated that all earthen dams be removed or replaced with new dams years ago. I know of 2 that were replaced in my area. How did this dam escape the new regulations? It appears that dams that hold back waste are exempt. I would also be concerned with the toxic/carcinogenic compounds that leached out of the ash and into the groundwater. We have by some estimates more than a 1000 year supply of coal in the Powder River Basin alone - so we had better find a way to deal with the fly ash. Nuclear is looking better by the day. Ed

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#15
In reply to #6

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

07/21/2016 3:07 AM

That is true.

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#7

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/27/2008 6:48 AM

What a lot of people also do not understand fully is that any coal burning plant releases more radiation into the world each day than a properly run nuclear plant (excepting some Russian & Chinese models!) does in 10 years....

The reason is that like any rocks in the ground, coal has a very low level of natural radiation in it, by burning thousands of tons of coal each day, this radiation is released.

As far as I am aware, there is no known method that allows this radiation to be "filtered" out!!!

Even the ash is probably less harmful in the long run (as long as you don't drown in it of course!!!) and can be useful in lightning up heavy clays and help in turning them into useful soils eventually....

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/30/2008 7:52 AM

Andy Germany-you've mentioned this issue of radiation release by burning coal,grinding granite and other rocks in threads before...I'm not sure what you are saying is valid...I will try and find some information on this but perhaps you can save me some effort and share some background information.Does the radiation seep up from the core and if so would the deepest mines have the highest measurable background radiation??What of the deep bore holes dug over the years.the former USSR had the deepest i believe approaching 20 miles or 100,000 feet down...any information on radiation increases as the relative depth of core samples increased...

With respect to fly ash its a pity the the TVA a well meaning organization established back in the 1920 or 30's to deal with flooding /create some hydroelectrical generating stations/open water ways to commerce etc. would act so ,well stupidly..However that being said 1 billion gallons over 400 acres makes for a good study site to monitor for the next few years..I suspect plant growth will be positively affected in most areas..and under current environmental constraints this study would never have been given the go ahead...So a make work project for agronomists/plant scientists/environmental health workers etc...I'm sure trees in the area will react positively to the bioavailabilty of dissolved metals..

Make the most of whatever happens...This disaster may yield some unknown good.

Regards...MArty Wolf

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/30/2008 8:13 AM

"I suspect plant growth will be positively affected"

Coal ash is not considered a fertilizer, and, will in fact, kill everything in your garden.

"Fly ash contains trace concentrations of many heavy metals that are known to be detrimental to health in sufficient quantities. These include nickel, vanadium, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, barium, chromium, copper, molybdenum, zinc, lead, selenium, uranium, thorium, and radium. The presence of uranium and other radioactive materials has led to research that concludes fly ash may be up to 100 times more radioactive than nuclear waste[15]. Though these elements are found in extremely low concentrations in fly ash, they can be hazardous if they reach the water supply. These have become real concerns in the Tennessee coal sludge spill, which has already seen a large fish die-off in the area.

The U.S. House of Representatives held an oversight hearing on the Federal government's role in addressing health and environmental risks of fly ash.[16] The United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ has said in the past that coal fly ash does not need to be regulated as a hazardous waste.[17] However, a revised risk assessment may change the way CCW is regulated.[18] Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and others conclude that fly ash compares with common soils or rocks and should not be the source of alarm.[19] However, community and environmental organizations have documented numerous environmental contamination and damage concerns".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_ash#Soil_stabilization

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/30/2008 8:48 AM

Bricktop...Thanks for the info...Having used wood ash in my gardens variously i suspect its makeup will be similar to fly ash,but again i'm often wrong,i've found that brassicas(cabbages,broccoli etc.)seem to do well with some wood ash mixed into soil directly..Also my ash/rough compost piles under white cedar trees appears to improve the growth of the cedar near by relative to the cedar more than 20 feet removed...

I will certainly read the referenced material you sent with the usual grain of salt(generally more than NaCl too).....Regards MW

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#13
In reply to #11

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/30/2008 9:12 AM

Bricktop...Sorry for my ignorance..Wikipedea is quick..I had no idea that the fly ash was so solid...My assumption (as usual a dangerous thing to do)was that most of the spill would have involved the liquid portion of the sludge pond...However i guess bulldozers,dump trucks etc will be involved and sorry for being so facetious in my earlier comments......A little bit of knowledge is not as satifying as knowing more of the event....MW

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#14
In reply to #10

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/30/2008 4:39 PM

I do not have the information to hand to back up what I was saying, I know I was reading it on the web after seeing a paper on the subject some 10 years ago.

I will have a look around and if I come across anything relevant, I will post a link for you.

By the way, everything in the ground is radio active, very low levels only, but a geiger counter can measure it. Its the sheer quantity of coal being burnt that is releasing it from the coal into the atmosphere that makes the problem....... breaking up stones does not release it.....it stays in the stone!

There may also be some connection with Radon gas that I am not aware of, but Radon can get to dangerous levels in cellars in some areas.....in the USA you can buy Radon test kits in many Supermarkets for that reason, sadly not here in Europe!!

-----------------------------------------------------------------

A quick internet search produced the following immediately, I think that my point has been proved conclusively as well, don't you?:-

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

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

http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html

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#8

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/27/2008 8:43 AM

The sad part of this story is that the power plant is owned and operated by TVA, a quasi-government agency. We have every reason to insist that they follow every regulation and adopt every up-to-date disposal method. Now I understand they intend to re-pond the recovered flyash. I can't imagine Duke Power or First Energy ever getting away with crap like that!

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#9

Re: Is Coal a viable answer for power generation ?

12/27/2008 11:52 AM

This is another glaring reason why gov't should NOT be in business.

If you think this is bad, look at banking.....health care.....road building....and the list goes on and on.

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