China had 549 coal mining accidents in 2013 that left 1,049 people dead or missing. Industry reports from a year ago say more than 1,300 people died in mining accidents in China in 2012 and 1,973 died in 2011.
The United States had 20 coal mining fatalities in 2013. The US mines about one third of the coal that China does.
The US does a lot more mountain top removal coal mining. This is the process of using thousands of tons of explosives to blow off the top of a mountain and any forest there so that coal (which I like to call burnable dirt) is exposed. Then the coal is scooped out for years. After which dirt is pushed back to get the approximation of the old mountain top and tree seedlings are planted [to restore the environment]. There are also big dammed up lakes of sludge which is the mix of pulverized rock, mud and blown up plants and trees.
Mining is just the tip of the coal mining iceberg of death. The bigger economic and health impact is literally over a million deaths from air pollution.
A unit train of coal consists of 110 carloads, each carrying 100 tons of coal. 25% of the weight of Wyoming coal is water, the rest is coal with an energy content of 33MJ/kg. The Genoa coal fired power plant can produce 378 Megawatts of electricity. How many trainloads of coal are needed in a year ? Only about 40 percent of the thermal energy in coal is converted to electricity. So the electricity generated per ton of coal is 0.4 x 6,150 kWh or 2,460 kWh/ton. A typical 500 megawatt coal power plant produces 3.5 billion kWh per year. That is enough energy for 4 million of our light bulbs to operate year round. To produce this amount of electrical energy, the plant burns 1.43 million tons of coal. The Genoa plant needs 135 trainloads of coal each year. One trainload every three days. A gigawatt power station with three coal plants would need one trainload (8000 tons of coal and the rest water in the coal rock) every day.
It also requires oil to move the coal. There are train, truck and shipping accidents.
Natural gas is about three times cleaner than coal (excluding any fracking effects).
But we freak out about nuclear because nuclear energy is scary.
Nuclear energy is not nuclear bombs. But it confuses and scare us.
Meanwhile coal, natural gas and oil kill in the tens of thousands and even millions.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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