Image by Flickr user Irish Typepad Image by 20081203-coal.jpg Coal can be less polluting, but it will never be environmentally friendly.
Spurred by all the talk over "clean coal", The Charleston City Paper has a very lengthy article absolutely decrying the misnomer of "clean coal."
To get clean coal, all the nasty stuff from coal is extracted and stored, and much like nuclear energy, that byproduct is highly toxic and must be stored indefinitely. But, the current byproduct of coal plants is also highly toxic.
I've always been uncomfortable with the term "clean coal," feeling it's a bit like taking a bag of reduced-fat pork rinds and calling them "healthy rinds" -- it just doesn't make sense.
But the paper transitions from the battle over a marketing word to South Carolina's role in coal (it's big). At any rate, the article is a good read. So go read it.
And with all the talk about whether South Carolina should get more nuclear plants as a way to subvert coal, it would have been nice if the City Paper would have at least mentioned the issue. -- Seems they also had a story on nuclear that I missed, the story deals not so much with nuclear energy itself but the concept reprocessing nuclear waste into reusable fuel.
Nuclear energy is relatively clean, when it's being used -- there's no fossil fuel emissions, no mercury going into the air. And because of that it's been long touted as the angelic successor to coal.
But nuclear gets tricky after you've used up a batch, you have to decide what to do with all the nasty leftovers. Nuclear fuel, being a tricky devil, still has lots of energy in it after it's taken out of nuclear plant -- so one solution is that the waste from dismantled warheads and nuclear plants can be "recycled" into useable fuel again.
It sounds great, but along the way you get lots more nasty gunk. Hop over to The Charleston City Paper for a good overview of that tricky one.
And South Carolina has a good chance of getting more "reprocessing" activity, and The Coastal Conservation League is urging folks to write letters in protest. The group says, in part:
Since the feds are too clever to say "nuclear waste dump," the proposal calls instead for "nuclear reprocessing." In practice, they are one and the same.