Time Magazine recently wrote about the bright future of coal energy The world used 4.6 billion tons of coal in 2004 and this amount is increasing. Global consumption of electricity is expected to double between 2002 and 2030.
Global photovoltaic (solar) production is 1.7 GW in 2005. It is growing at 45% per year.
We added 12GW of wind power in 2005. It is growing at 25% per year.
The world adds 100-200GW of electricity every year depending upon economic growth. Wind and solar will not be added fast enough to stop new coal plant construction for 10-30 years. We need to not only stop making new coal plants but replace the old ones. Nuclear power must be included as part of the solution that we push now. Ideally we need to bring Thorium reactors online. We need to fasttrack them. The nuclear reactors are available technology. We have improved versions.
Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. The population gets 100 times more radiation from a coal plant than from a nuclear plant. So in 2004 by burning 4.6 billions tons of coal, we released 5980 tons of uranium into the air and 14720 tons of Thorium. This is like 80 truck size dirty nuclear bombs releasing 1 ton of radioactive material every day.
China had 8000 coal mining deaths in 2003. 80% of the world total. Therefore, 10,000 coal mining deaths per year That is more than three times the deaths from 9-11.
Chernobyl killed 50 people and made 4000 gravely ill.
Some 600,000 miners in China were suffering from lung diseases at large state owned mines due to poor ventilation, while last year state mine workers reported 20,000 new cases of lung disease. “If we consider small local and township mines, which don’t report this kind of statistic, then there are some 2 million mine workers with lung disease.”
In a per year number, we are looking at about 400,000 gravely ill people per year.
Therefore, this is like 2 Chernobyls per week. If coal use doubled, we would be looking at coal Chernobyls 4 times per week.
How much oil does it take to dig and move 4.6 billion tons of coal?
How many traffic accident happen moving all those loads?
How much wear and tear is there on the roads?
Coal is a main cause of global warming. Global warming is killing animal, plant and fish species.
Despite all of the publicity the old nuclear reactors in the US did not cause direct deaths from radiation. (Other than a handful of safety accidents) The new reactors are safer. Thorium reactors would be even safer. In 46 years, using 440 nuclear plants, Chernobyl happened once.
Existing Coal plants must be regulated and the nuclear material prevented from going into the air. Every other technological and policy means at our disposal should be used to reduce coal usage. Biofuels, even genetically engineered biocrops, more solar, more wind, and more nuclear. Upgrade existing nuclear plants to add 160 GW.
The urgency is there is a coal Chernobyl twice a week, 80 one ton dirty bombs every day, three coal 9-11s every year, coal is a primary cause of global warming, it is costing us animals and the environment, it is increasing the frequency of Katrina events and all of this will double by 2030 if we do not take very strong action.
More facts on how bad coal is
Time magazine had a recent follow up on coal. It shows that there are legal challenges and a push to regulate the coal industry. The radiation fallout issue is not addressed.