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It Was the Worst Industrial Disaster In US History, and We Learned Nothing 290

Posted by Soulskill
from the par-for-the-course dept.
superboj writes "Forget Deepwater Horizon or Three Mile Island: The biggest industrial disaster in American history actually happened in 2008, when more than a billion gallons of coal sludge ran through the small town of Kingston, Tennessee. This story details how, five years later, nothing has been done to stop it happening again, thanks to energy industry lobbying, federal inaction, and secrecy imposed on Congress. 'It estimated that 140,000 pounds of arsenic had spilled into the Emory River, as well as huge quantities of mercury, aluminum and selenium. In fact, the single spill in Kingston released more chromium, lead, manganese, and nickel into the environment than the entire U.S. power industry spilled in 2007. ... Kingston, though, is by far the worst coal ash disaster that the industry has ever seen: 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash, containing at least 10 known toxins, were spilled. In fact, the event ... was even bigger than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, which spewed approximately 1 million cubic yards of oil into the Gulf of Mexico."
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It Was the Worst Industrial Disaster In US History, and We Learned Nothing

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  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @03:10PM (#46526539) Homepage
    So much easier for you to blame someone else (the media...) than to accept responsibility for you own apathy.

    We had the huge recession, and the media was more interested in Obama's victory.

    More importantly, the coal industry spent a lot of money and legal effort to prevent the media from getting photos.

    I heard about it from the main stream media and remember being offended by how the industry was restricting coverage.

    If you didn't, then perhaps you should accept responsibility for watching crappy media instead of blaming the media for being crappy.

    That is, not all media is as incompetent as the ones you watch.

  • Re:Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @03:28PM (#46526741)

    indeed, and even if we confined ourselves to worst coal slurry accidents in 1972 there were 125 killed, over 1000 injured and 4000 left homeless in the so-called Buffalo Creek Flood in Logan County, West Virginia

  • by amorsen (7485) <> on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @03:31PM (#46526775)

    We don't dig up fossil fuels out of the ground and eat them.

    If only we did. That would lower fossil CO2 consumption compared to most of the types of food we actually eat.

    Alas, coal is not very tasty and the human body cannot do much useful with it.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @03:42PM (#46526889) Homepage Journal

    It's smaller. What's more annoying(as a local...ish) is that the state department of environmental regulation has been gutted by a governor who actually owns a lot of stock in Duke Energy. And even after the big news about this, it turns out that Duke actually still has pumps designed to pump coal ash directly from their pools into the cape fear river "for maintenance", in direct violation of the clean water act.

    They excused it by saying "we didn't get any recommendation against it by the state environmental agency".

  • by ColaMan (37550) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @03:50PM (#46526991) Homepage Journal

    Ash = ash.
    Coal ash is different from volcanic ash.

    I used to do ash analysis on coal samples - coal ash is pushing 95% silica and alumina. The rest of the elemental analysis are trace elements, which can be made to sound super-scary when you scale up the quantities to thousands of tons. OMG! There's 100,000 pounds of this KILLER element released! Yes, but it's spread out evenly though 10 million tons of slurry over 100 square miles. You could probably strip-mine the top 5 feet of the same area in a city and find higher concentrations.

    The biggest problem is not all the toxic waste, it's all the bloody inert sludge that's everywhere.

  • by macpacheco (1764378) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @04:23PM (#46527333)

    It's being done, but outside the USA.
    Terrestrial Energy Inc of Canada are developing a simpler version of the LFTR reactor, the DMSR, operating on a mix of Thorium and Uranium, with the ability to be at least 50x more efficient than regular LWR reactors (as in GWh of energy produced per ton of fissile/fertile material fed into the reactor). Since it's a molten salt / molten fuel design, once the reactor is decommissioned, it's core materials can be recycled into a new reactor. They are skipping the nuclear material reprocessing (as well as a few others technological advantages of LFTR that carry perceived regulatory hurdles).
    But reprocessing could be performed every so many years, for a huge gain in efficiency (the more fission products kept inside the reactor, the less efficient it gets).
    The main difference of LFTR to DMSR is the DMSR always runs of a mix of Thorium and enriched uranium, such that any U-233 produced is instantly mixed with U-238, such that it makes the U-233 produced just as hard to extract than U-235 from mined uranium.
    But contrary to regular water cooled / solid fuel reactors, Xe-135 produced is immediately captured at the top of the reactor (Xe-135 is the biggest efficiency problem in solid fuel reactors), plus the molten fuel means annual fuel top offs can be done without stopping the reactor, making for a reactor that can run much closer to 100% of the time.
    Finally as all molten fuel / molten coolant reactors, it has the drain tank, the catch pan and the freeze plug that makes the reactor walk away safe (if the reactor overheats the freeze plug melts draining the core material into the drain tank, if the reactor suffers a leak the leakage either solidify plugging the leak or drains into the catch pan. And finally, since the core material is a solid below 300C, and there's nothing at any high pressure, the reactor isn't trying to throw radioactive materials into the atmosphere.
    Hopefully this will be online by 2022.
    Long video (73 minutes): []
    Bottom line, if this works (I think it will), doing a full blown LFTR Thorium reactor will be much easier, since the DMSR is in most ways a simplification of the full LFTR reactor.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @04:28PM (#46527385) Homepage Journal

    I would wager 50% of the food we eat depends on green houses an 'life stock stalls' that are lighted, heated and cooled with energy made from fossil fuels.
    Add to that transportation of food and water for life stock, transportation of their dung, themselves their meat etc.
    The meat industry is one of the biggest polluters of the planet ... exactly: industry, the age of mere farmers is gone since ages.

  • by operagost (62405) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @04:39PM (#46527491) Homepage Journal
    No, this statement was provocative hyperbole that equates controlled use of energy resources to industrial accidents. It's like calling every infamous head of state "Hitler" and is a distraction from setting our priorities to real problems. AC was wise to post AC, because he/she has no real conviction.

"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." -- Peter De Vries