1. A new study by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, identifies 39 additional coal-ash dump sites in 21 states that pollute drinking water with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals
The heavy metals exceeded federal drinking water standards at every site equipped with monitoring wells. The newly identified sites are in addition to 31 documented in a Feb. report and 67 identified before then, bringing the total of known toxic contamination sites from coal ash pollution to 137 in 34 states. The analysis comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begins regional hearings on whether to regulate coal ash waste from coal-fired power plants. The electric power industry is lobbying to keep regulation up to individual states, but environmental groups argue states have failed to protect the public and EPA should set and enforce a national standard.
Coal ash is the collective term for the various solid remnants left over from burning the black rock to produce electricity at more than 500 power plants nationwide. The ash amounts to dirty stuff, replete with toxic constituents — arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, and many others — that can wreak havoc on the environment and human health. Exposure to its toxins can lead to cancer, birth defects, gastro-intestinal illnesses, and reproductive problems.
721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which – or almost 20 million tons – ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses.
There are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S., each of which can reach up to 1,500 acres.
In 2007, 50 million tons of fly ash was used for agriculture purposes, such as improving the soil’s ability to hold water, in spite of a 1999 EPA warning about high levels of arsenic.
Brush Forks contains 9 billion gallons of coal sludge. One of the 1,300 surface impoundments.
2. Recent research by the International Energy Agency shows that nearly half of interviewees worldwide think that wind and solar power will be the two main sources of electricity generation by 2040. There is just one problem: That idea is naive, overoptimistic and almost certainly mistaken. Quite literally, it is “hot air.”
It is not nuclear scientists or the International Atomic Energy Authority saying this. Take renowned environmentalist James Lovelock: “We are at the point where there is no sensible alternative to nuclear power if we are to sustain civilization.”
Wind and solar may over time provide solutions for communities in those parts of the world where the sun shines and the wind blows, reliably for long hours every day throughout the year. Even in these lucky places (and Hong Kong is not one of them) it will take a long time to get the power in place, and the cost of electricity will be high or heavily subsidized.
By contrast, nuclear power can be available in large quantities very quickly, and at costs similar to the cost of thermal power.