Radon in Coal ?

General energy and coal related topics, news and basic information. If you do not know where to post your topic post it here.
User avatar
Uglysquirrel
Member
Posts: 1161
Joined: Mon. Jan. 07, 2008 8:27 pm
Stove/Furnace Model: Pocono

Post Tue. Jun. 02, 2009 9:59 pm

Just came from a home that had off the chart radon readings before a negative pressure fan was installed. This made me think about the coal we may be storing in our basements. Does coal give off radon?


User avatar
009to090
Member
Posts: 5104
Joined: Fri. Jan. 30, 2009 10:02 am
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM 520 HighBoy
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: DVC-500 x 2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice
Location: Warrenton, NC

Post Tue. Jun. 02, 2009 10:09 pm

http://www.radon.com/radon/granite.html
FACT - All natural products, especially stone, minerals, and sand, contain trace amounts of some radioactive elements called NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Mineral) that can produce measurable amounts of radiation and sometimes radon gas.

This includes all concrete products, clay bricks, most non-plastic plates and dishes, coal and the flyash produced in coal-fired power plants, natural gas (contains radon), phosphate fertilizers used in your garden (ALL contain potassium and small amounts of uranium and thorium), and the vegetables grown using those fertilizers......
If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

User avatar
coalkirk
Member
Posts: 4682
Joined: Wed. May. 17, 2006 8:12 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Wed. Jun. 03, 2009 7:40 am

Just curious how you know it had off the chart radon readings and what they were.
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." —General George S. Patton

Burning rice coal in a 1981 EFM DF520, nut coal in a hand fired Jotul 507.

User avatar
Richard S.
Mayor
Posts: 12712
Joined: Fri. Oct. 01, 2004 8:35 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite
Location: NEPA

Post Wed. Jun. 03, 2009 9:00 am

As with most things related with anthracite specifically you're going to inevitably run into the issue of no data , you'll find plenty on bituminous coal though. From attached document there is only one instance where Radon is mentioned from raw coal:
Virtually 100 percent of the radon gas present in feed coal is transferred to the gas phase and is lost in stack emissions
Uranium concentrations are lower than that of granite:
radioactivity.gif
This is in relationship to Radon in fly ash from bit coal:
Another consideration is that low-density, fly-ash-rich concrete products may be a source of radon gas. Direct measurement of this contribution to indoor radon is complicated by the much larger contribution from underlying soil and rock (see fig. 4). The emanation of radon gas from fly ash is less than from natural soil of similar uranium content. Present calculations indicate that concrete building products of all types contribute less than 10 percent of the total indoor radon.
As radioactivity material in fly ash is one of the main stays of the environmentalists movement I always like listing this graph although it does not have much relevance to this discussion. Exposure to radiation from coal plants falls under "Other" :
radioactivity1.gif
So the question is what's the hazard before it's burned if any? Your guess is as good as mine. Attached is the .pdf, the web page can be found here:

http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html
Attachments
FS-163-97.pdf
(107.47 KiB) Downloaded 8 times
"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

- Albert Einstein

User avatar
BigBarney
Member
Posts: 325
Joined: Wed. Feb. 08, 2006 2:48 pm

Post Wed. Jun. 03, 2009 8:49 pm

After reading the report that Richard posted I don't believe we have

anything to worry about With the coal or the ash residue. Since most

of the radiation is contained in the rock and other non burnable part

of the coal it it more or less locked in that material,so naturally the ash

has more of the radioactive components within it.

Coal probably is no worse than the and concrete and other rock type

material which most basements are constructed from.

BigBarney

User avatar
Uglysquirrel
Member
Posts: 1161
Joined: Mon. Jan. 07, 2008 8:27 pm
Stove/Furnace Model: Pocono

Post Thu. Jun. 04, 2009 7:02 am

Thanks, Gentlemen, really good data that I could not find in a 1/2 hr session with google.

After I posted my question I saw info that even said almost all underground coal mines with exception of one mine in Spain have minimal issues with radon.

Than one on of pea stays in the basement for the summer.

Thanks

Bruce

User avatar
coalkirk
Member
Posts: 4682
Joined: Wed. May. 17, 2006 8:12 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: 1981 EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: anthracite/rice coal
Location: Forest Hill MD

Post Thu. Jun. 04, 2009 8:19 am

coalkirk wrote:Just curious how you know it had off the chart radon readings and what they were.
bump
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. Winston Churchill

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me." —General George S. Patton

Burning rice coal in a 1981 EFM DF520, nut coal in a hand fired Jotul 507.

User avatar
SMITTY
Member
Posts: 11915
Joined: Sun. Dec. 11, 2005 12:43 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Patriot Coal - (custom built by Jim Dorsey, Taunton MA - RIP 4/18/13)
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Harman Mark III (SOLD!)
Coal Size/Type: Rice / Blaschak anthracite
Other Heating: Oil fired Burnham boiler
Location: West-Central Mass

Post Thu. Jun. 04, 2009 10:19 am

I have faaaaaaaar too many other issues to deal with than to worry about radioactivity in my coal.

If I stand close enough to a bag of coal, will it cure my asthma? :lol:
The laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are
neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. ...Such laws make things worse
for the assaulted and better for the assailants, they serve rather to
encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with
greater confidence than an armed man."

- Thomas Jefferson, quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria in "On
Crimes and Punishment."


User avatar
Machinist
Member
Posts: 137
Joined: Sat. May. 17, 2008 5:48 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KAA-2
Coal Size/Type: Rice
Other Heating: None
Location: Telford, PA

Post Thu. Jun. 04, 2009 7:57 pm

I'd like to add that I carry a portable radiation monitor at all times.
It has never alarmed while near coal.
Mike

Titus
Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Thu. May. 29, 2008 12:47 pm
Location: Bangor, Maine

Post Thu. Jun. 04, 2009 8:26 pm

BigBarney wrote:After reading the report that Richard posted I don't believe we have

anything to worry about With the coal or the ash residue. Since most

of the radiation is contained in the rock and other non burnable part

of the coal it it more or less locked in that material,so naturally the ash

has more of the radioactive components within it.

Coal probably is no worse than the and concrete and other rock type

material which most basements are constructed from.

BigBarney
Radiation isn't "locked in" to the rock. If it were, it would be of no concern.

Radon is a product of uranium decay. It is very unstable, with isotopes having half-lives ranging from 1.8 hours to 3.8 days. This instability, and the fact that radon is a gas is what makes it dangerous. Radon gives off alpha radiation (helium nuclei), which isn't terribly dangerous. A few inches of air, or the dead layer on the surface of your skin, is enough to protect you. However, breathe in the gas, and now the alpha particles can blast away at you from the inside. Being so active, some of the radon you breathe in is bound to decay while inside you, hitting you with radiation. Worse, when radon decays, it becomes polonium, which then decays into lead. So, you breathe in the radioactive gas and are left with radioactive metals in your lungs that you can't breathe out.

Anthracite coal, being almost entirely carbon from decayed pants, will essentially not have radon in it. There are bound to be some radioactive mineral contaminants in the coal however, and these noncombustible minerals are concentrated in the ash as the coal is burned. All ashes are more radioactive than the original fuel for this same reason.

Long story short, the radon problem is caused not by what is in your basement, but what is under it. Radon is seeping up from the ground below.

EPA Connecticut map:
http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap/connecticut.htm

User avatar
Rice Burner
Member
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun. Apr. 19, 2009 7:24 am
Coal Size/Type: rice
Stove/Furnace Make: harman
Stove/Furnace Model: dvc-500
Location: Cortlandt Manor, NY

Post Fri. Jun. 05, 2009 11:51 am

I actually work at a nuclear power plant in the radiation protection dept. so I have some insight. We deal with "false alarms" on our personnel monitors all the time from radon. Anywhere you have a large amount of brick and concrete you will have radon present. But here is a good story. One day I had just finished cleaning out my stove. Gave it a good vac dumped the ash bin and went into work. Now I live very close to work so I was in the plant within 10 min. I happened to step into one of our contamination monitors soon there after and lit it up like a Christmas tree from radon. The ½ life of radon is short so if I lived farther away I would not have seen it.

User avatar
Richard S.
Mayor
Posts: 12712
Joined: Fri. Oct. 01, 2004 8:35 pm
Stoker Coal Boiler: Van Wert VA1200
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/Anthracite
Location: NEPA

Post Fri. Jun. 05, 2009 12:29 pm

Titus wrote:
Radon is a product of uranium decay.
So we can assume since coal has less uranium than granite you're more likely to die from the granite countertop? :P

Keep in mind those figures from the USGS are most likely based entirely on bit. coal.
"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

- Albert Einstein

Titus
Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Thu. May. 29, 2008 12:47 pm
Location: Bangor, Maine

Post Fri. Jun. 05, 2009 8:45 pm

Richard S. wrote:So we can assume since coal has less uranium than granite you're more likely to die from the granite countertop? :P
Most granites will be only slightly radioactive. You get more exposure by going outside. As I said, what is under your house is far more dangerous than what is in it.

I have a degree in physics by the way, and when studying nuclear physics we had a little class project. The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was still in operation, and public sentiment was in high dudgeon over a minor incident where a small amount of radioactive steam was released during a high school class tour of the plant. We had to calculate their dosage. I don't remember the numbers, but we related it to every day activities. When you hike to the top of Mt. Katahdin, you get a higher does than those kids got. It was far less than a chest x-ray.

Prior to WW2, Fiestaware with a red/orange glaze was made with uranium dioxide as a pigment. My professor had a set we could have fun testing in the lab. Very active on the Geiger counter.
Image

Radiation is such a boogeyman... most people have irrational fears.

PS: The EPA link I provided is specifically about radon.

User avatar
009to090
Member
Posts: 5104
Joined: Fri. Jan. 30, 2009 10:02 am
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM 520 HighBoy
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: DVC-500 x 2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice
Location: Warrenton, NC

Post Fri. Jun. 05, 2009 8:50 pm

Titus wrote: Prior to WW2, Fiestaware with a red/orange glaze was made with uranium dioxide as a pigment. My professor had a set we could have fun testing in the lab. Very active on the Geiger counter.
Image
Interesting.
My parents still use their old Fiestaware. I'll have to test them with a Geiger counter.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

User avatar
BigBarney
Member
Posts: 325
Joined: Wed. Feb. 08, 2006 2:48 pm

Post Sun. Jun. 07, 2009 10:54 am

Titus:

I agree that the radon is not in the coal but in the ash,but your testing

of the radon given off after being heated to between 1000* -2500* in a

coal boiler,would probably be much lower.You are more apt to get a higher

dose from a few hours in your basement if you are in an area with a large

amount decaying uranium beneath you in the soil,than from your coal

appliance.

What I meant by the radon being " locked in the rock" is that

small amount of uranium or breakdown products are not in the fuel part

of the coal.I know of one house in my area that has a radon elimination

system in the basement which ventilates the radon gases into the air

thru pipes in the basement with a 24 hour fan.They also sealed the

basement floor with a sealer that divert the radon to the collection

system under the floor around the perimeter walls.

Richard:

That the data is from bituminous is correct because they regularly test

the ash for disposal for any harmful elements.Anthracite is not burned

in any large quantities so I would guess that most of the ash would be

disposed in old mines or on top of strip mined land and mixed with soil

for reclamation.

BigBarney


Post Reply

Return to “Coal News & General Coal Discussions”