In a comment related to my previous post titled Why is “waste” such a large topic WRT nuclear energy a reader mentioned that there are some clean up issues related to uranium mining. I will post some information about that particular topic sometime in the future, but I just happened to be browsing over on Energy Pulse and found a very timely set of articles on the topic of waste.
Chuck Steiner, President and CEO, WaterSmart Environmental, Inc. has written a two part article titled There’s Gold in Them Thar Waste Hills – Part 1 and There’s Gold in Them Thar Waste Hills – Part 2. These articles provide detailed information about the difficulties and opportunities associated with municipal solid waste, coal mining and combustion waste, phosphate mining waste, and oil sands mining waste.
There are several topics in the article that strike me. One is the fact that coal mining waste has so many exemptions from normal waste handling rules. A second is that the enormous reserves of phosphogypsum stored in Central Florida offer opportunities for at least two very important applications.
First of all, the uranium and thorium can be removed and sold as long as the market prices remain near where they are today. Phosphate mines captured uranium for many years before the price of the material dropped below their costs.
Secondly, as described in the article, PG is a key ingredient in concrete manufacturing. As the Second Atomic Age kicks into high gear, concrete is going to be in high demand for both containment structures and cooling towers. The fact that there is a slight amount of naturally occurring radioactive material in the PG left over from phosphate mining should not be a detriment if them material is destined for use at a nuclear power plant.
Take a look at the articles, even if only for the pictures. They help to put the “nuclear waste” issue into perspective. BTW, when someone tells me that the difference is that radioactive waste is dangerous for tens of thousands of years, I ask them if they know how long mercury remains toxic. (The answer, of course, is forever, since mercury is a stable element.)