Drake Jellison and Radioactive Coal

Drake Jellison

[Insert Harry Potter theme]

Now, I might just be scientifically sheltered, starved and otherwise oblivious, but this was serious news to me. ‘This’ being this–> http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

Er, before I get to the Journalism-muse-science business, it’s best that I give you a nice excuse so you don’t fire me and/or say mean things to me in school that would hurt my feelings. It all begins at 11:30 on saturday night. It was a dark, not quite stormy night. A storm would’ve helped to keep the boredom of my procrastination from allaying the mood. It would’ve added character, spice — I digress. Basically, I hit my head against the desk really hard. I come to this shocking realization that I haven’t done anything for a while. Sure, I’m doing that thing for yearbook, but does that really qualify as Jellison Journalism?

Couldn’t decide, so I figured, why not both? I’ll just do my homework… And what I was supposed to do a week ago! GENIUS!

Anyway, enough about me. You wanted science and that is what I will try and fail to give you.

Coal is bad. There are very few ways to burn it “clean” and even those methods leave behind plenty of environment-choking gunk that would make Captain Planet cry at best and at worst send him to the hospital for a month. Our state uses coal-based power plants for the majority of it’s power grid, if I’m not mistaken. Yes, there’s plenty of coal to go around, but is it really worth all the trouble? That’s another debate entirely, but there are other troubles with coal.

Namely that it’s, um… It’s kind of radioactive. Working at a coal power plant can get you sick depending on your exposure, while working at a nuclear power plant is ironically safer. Nuclear power plants are shielded, contrary to popular belief. You don’t just walk in and see Carl chiseling away at a solid bar of uranium, walk over and start chatting with him about the football game.

It was a good football game, but you and Carl will probably never share the bonding experience of chatting over a bar of uranium.

I mean, you don’t do that in a coal plant either, but coal plants are less shielded and prepared in the event that Carl might acquire and somehow bring in a bar of uranium and chisel at it while other staff members are filing in for the work day. Or that the bi-product of the facility might be a little radioactive. What the workers don’t know won’t hurt– Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Moving on…

The gunk, according to the article that you read, tends to get into places that people live, their air, their workplaces and the water table. That’s a little scary. I mean, we don’t associate coal with radioactivity much, do we? No, not your average American, at least. Coal is a problem and can ruin Captain Planet’s day, but coal has nothing to do with radiation, right? We’re nice and safe from that, aren’t we? Especially after the recent Nuclear Power incident in Japan after their tsunami, our system has proven to be nice and safe and clean in comparison, has it not? Despite this, people are exposed to small amounts of this radiation, depending on where they live and work, day to day.

It’s not so much that it’s dangerous as that it’s happening at all, as you read. When you look at the sun (WHY ARE YOU STARING AT THE SUN!?), you don’t immediately think “UV Radiation cascading downwards through a cushion of oxygen and ozone to warm my skin, resulting in the production of greater quantities of melanin in my skin,” do you? But you know that it’s happening. You know the radiation is there somewhere inside, whether you clean out and take care of that somewhere being wholly irrelevant. You might know every uncomfortable fact about the business of sun exposure and still be A-Okay with the sun. But if you don’t know about radiation from other sources, it adds another variable.

However negligible that variable may be, it’s still uncomfortable to know. This stuff isn’t exactly chernobyl proportionate. It isn’t a ticking time bomb waiting to descend upon our society without warning and with vicious abandon, turning our verdant country into Fallout 3. No, no, it’s actually not that dangerous as long as you don’t… I guess, eat the stuff en masse. But it’s still not fun to know, particularly if the people in charge of power had the option of telling the public and decided not to.

Knowing me, they probably did. While they were doing it, I probably had my head in an ice cream bucket trying to get that last cookie dough ball out of the vanilla with a spoon in my teeth. My hands were busy filling a drink I couldn’t see, before you ask. It ended positively.

ANYWAY, it is uncomfortable. At least, it is for me. You’re probably all laughing at me and calling me a wimp behind those magic boxes of yours, aren’t you? Well, I’ll show you! I’ll show you all!

In all seriousness, I wrote this at 11:30 and it is now 12:09. I’m hoping I gave you something to think about for a second post at the very least. Heck, maybe you even liked it. Maybe this post is that last stepping stone I need that will catapult me onwards and upwards into being a star~!

… Yeah, I’m gonna go to bed now. Thank you for reading. Feel free to say mean things to me over email, just don’t be surprised if you find a bar of chiseled uranium in your locker.

About the Author

Drake Jellison
Member of the Hoenn Elite Four.