Author Topic: Paving Florida roads with radioactive material. What could possibly go wrong?  (Read 616 times)

MillCreek

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MillCreek
Snohomish County, WA  USA


Quote from: Angel Eyes on August 09, 2018, 01:56:15 AM
You are one lousy risk manager.

WLJ

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The EPA tentatively approved the material for road construction in 2020 under the Trump administration

Well it must be bad then

That out of the way

I would like to see comparisons of the naturally occurring, if any, radioactive levels of normal paving material to this.
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dogmush

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HankB

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The article says the material in question is an alpha emitter, only dangerous if ingested.

It's a by-product of making fertilizer.

Fertilizer is put on fruit and vegetable plants.

The plants take up the fertilizer.

People and animals ingest it.

I wonder exactly how much radioactive material this stuff contains, and how it compares with regular background radiation.
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Nick1911

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The article says the material in question is an alpha emitter, only dangerous if ingested.

It's a by-product of making fertilizer.

Fertilizer is put on fruit and vegetable plants.

The plants take up the fertilizer.

People and animals ingest it.

I wonder exactly how much radioactive material this stuff contains, and how it compares with regular background radiation.

Seems like the mined phosphorus containing mineral is processed into phosphorous containing fertilizer, and the leftover junk is just thrown in a pile.  Some of this leftover junk happens to contain thorium and uranium that was in the original rock.  The fertilizer, it seems, doesn't contain these metals.

On one hand, this material was naturally present in the earth and it is what causes background radiation.  On the other hand, it's been concentrated some and roadways only last so long... then they get milled down, and the millings get reprocessed.  This creates dust with health hazards of it's own without the presence of alpha emitters.

On the face of it, seems like a bad idea.

MechAg94

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On the face of it, it sounds like fertilizer industries in Florida have successfully lobbied the legislature to help them get rid of a byproduct they can't figure out a cheap use for. 

That said, I am not certain I know the actual danger of this material.  I wonder how much radiation the raw material emits just sitting in whatever waste storage location they have it?  How much if they stir it up?  Information like that would be useful. 
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Angel Eyes

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Perd Hapley

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This is happening in Florida, so all that really matters is using it against DeSantis.
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RoadKingLarry

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The solution to pollution is dilution.
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cordex

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On one hand, this material was naturally present in the earth and it is what causes background radiation.  On the other hand, it's been concentrated some and roadways only last so long... then they get milled down, and the millings get reprocessed.  This creates dust with health hazards of it's own without the presence of alpha emitters.

On the face of it, seems like a bad idea.
I don't have a very good grasp of the dangers of radiation and tend toward the feeling that radiation is bad and less radiation is good.  But I'm also not scared of flying, bananas, granite countertops, red bricks, concrete, smoke detectors, etc.  We use zircon sand in ceramics, refractory materials, abrasives, and jewelry which I believe tends to be as much as 10 times more radioactive than raw phosphogypsum.

Then again, roadways see a lot of abuse and deterioration even outside of milling operations, so the risk of creating airborne particulate is almost certain to be far higher than the uses of zircon sand.

All that said, the articles labeling this as "paving the roads with radioactive waste" are absolutely dishonest and manipulative.  If they were using granite debris for paving it could equally be called "paving the roads with radioactive waste" (granite radioactivity is in the same order of magnitude), but no one would reasonably consider it so.  If you toss out banana peels you might be technically disposing of radioactive waste, but no reasonable person would call it that. 

When someone says "radioactive waste" they're trying to conjure images of glowing green goo leaking out of barrels on The Simpsons.  The fact that the articles are starting off intentionally manipulating perception makes me doubt the conclusions they are trying to push.

dogmush

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https://fipr.floridapoly.edu/about-us/phosphate-primer/radiation-and-phosphogypsum.php

Some context.  The radioactivity is measured in picocuries.

In less abstract terms:

Quote
• The U.S. EPA prohibits the use of phosphogypsum. An exception is made for phosphogypsum with an average concentration less than 10 pCi/g radium which can be used as an agricultural amendment. EPA’s ban was based on a single scenario which assumed that the by-product was used in road building or as an agricultural amendment and 100 years later a house was built on the farm field or the abandoned road and the homeowner lived in the house 70 years, staying in the house 18 hours a day. Under this scenario the homeowner’s risk of radon-related health concerns only slightly exceeded the EPA’s acceptable limits.

Quote
• The Central Florida phosphogypsum is restricted to storage on land in large piles called “stacks.”

• The overall radioactivity in the stacked phosphogypsum is actually less than what was in the original phosphate ore that was taken out of the ground.

JTHunter

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Back when I was taking organic chemistry in college, one of the things that we studied was radiation and its effects on living tissue.
Alpha particles (2 ea. - protons/neutrons) are the weakest and heaviest and could be stopped by just 5 sheets of notebook paper.  Beta particles (electrons or positrons) are much faster but lighter.  I don't remember what is needed to block them or how much.
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