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View Diary: Pennsylvania wants to use fracking waste as road salt (114 comments)

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  •  Radioactivity is the main concern here. (1+ / 0-)
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    PA uses a tremendous amount of road salt, and if the brine from fracking is concentrated to salt, there is no reason that can't be used for that purpose... except for the radionuclides discussed in the diary.  Substances like thorium are the problem.

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 05:59:40 AM PST

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    •  Radium is the main problem (1+ / 0-)
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      Ginny in CO

      About 1000 times as much radioactivity from Ra226 as from the thorium isotopes in those CW samples. There's a lot less radium than thorium there (thorium is 4x as common in the earth's crust as uranium, 240x as common as gold, & 60 million times as common as radium) but the radium is nearly 9 million times as radioactive.

      Also radium is chemically similar to calcium, which not only means it's easier to dissolve in water than thorium (one reason why it shows up more prominently in these analyses) but also that it gets taken up by the bones & can stay there for many years, where the radioactivity can cause leukemia & bone cancer. The latter is an exceedingly ugly way to die.

      Fiscal Bluff successfully called--now let's see 'em bet the limit on the Debt Limit so we can clean 'em out!

      by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 04:11:35 PM PST

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      •  Did you read (1+ / 0-)
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        Rei's comment above?  My ability to respond to this level of knowledge is limited. Just have a medically based resistance to radiation being considered harmless. So the stuff measured in that study is negligible. How about all the other negligible stuff out there. It adds up. And the levels are only considered for humans. What about other species?

        Your comment brings to mind a 20 something patient who had worked at Rocky Flats. His bones were replacing calcium with iron. Might work for a comic book hero. Not for humans. They couldn't figure out the mechanism. Rocky Flats had managed to get the research docs to say it wasn't caused there. Patient thought differently.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 07:10:34 PM PST

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        •  Never said it was "negligible", only (0+ / 0-)

          that of the two species, the radium is much more of a problem than the thorium. All you have to do is look at the numbers (expressed in terms of pCi/L, the amount of radiation given off per unit volume of the CW) to see that.

          I reviewed Rei's comment, and it seems accurate as far as it goes. No amount of radiation is necessarily "harmless," but there are real distinctions.

          Radium226 and thorium230 primarily emit alpha rays (really just helium atoms without electrons), which have very little penetrating power. For many years people wore wristwatches with numerals painted with radium compounds so they would glow in the dark, at essentially no hazard to them, because the alpha rays that induced the phosphorescence couldn't get through the watch crystal, let alone the watch body itself. (In fact a mere layer of unbroken skin stops most of them.)

          However many of the girls who painted those numerals suffered horrifically: They often "pointed" the tiny brushes  between their lips--whence radium entered the body. Once there, a significant amount of it lodged in the bones, replacing calcium, & over time many (it is unclear how many) developed serious health problems from the exposure.

          So if you stood over a road salted with this stuff (as in Rei's post) your additional internal exposure would be minimal. But if you used it to salt your veggies, that would be something else altogether.

          (Let me note in passing that the same distinction exists for both radon in homes and depleted uranium in ordnance. Radon is the next decay product down the chain from radium, which itself is produced by decays starting with thorium230 or uranium238. Both of those elements are present in the soils and in cement & concrete, but are essentially harmless because they are alpha emitters that aren't ingested. Radon is also an alpha emitter, but it's a gas--& when you breathe elevated concentrations in over a period of time, you incur a health risk.

          Likewise, depleted uranium--essentially pure uranium238--is not hazardous as a solid component of an armor penetrator. But once it's used the extreme heat of impact causes it to ignite & produce aerosol dust or powder that can be inhaled.

          TMI, I know, but just FTR...)

          The major concern in using the CW-derived salts for road clearing is what happens to it after it melts the snow or ice & is carried away in the runoff. Clearly it gets into the groundwater. Does it concentrate in the aquifer? Does it show up in wells & municipal water systems? In what quantities & concentrations? (As it turns out the same chemical processes for softening "hard" water by removing calcium from it will also remove radium, but I don't know how much of that is going on already in that region.)

          --Does that help?

          Fiscal Bluff successfully called--now let's see 'em bet the limit on the Debt Limit so we can clean 'em out!

          by Uncle Cosmo on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:50:35 PM PST

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