Hazardous Waste Overview

To give you an idea of how much waste is generated, here are some 10+ year old stats from the Department of energy Table AF-2. WASTE FUN FACTS

1 ounce   = NOx emissions generated from 3.6 gallons of gasoline
3 ounces  = municipal solid waste generated per person per hour
2.5 pounds = emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) generated from 90 pounds of coal
4.4 pounds = municipal solid waste generated per person per day
20 pounds  = carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from 1 gallon of gasoline
31 pounds  = municipal solid waste generated per person per week
162 pounds = CO2 emissions from 8 gallons of gasoline
207 pounds = CO2 generated by 1 million Btus of coal
290 pounds = industrial waste generated per person per day
1,600 pounds  = municipal solid waste generated per person per year
2,000 pounds  = 1 U.S. ton

2.3 tons  = CO2 emissions generated from 1 ton of coal
= industrial hazardous waste generated per person per year
53 tons  = industrial waste generated per person per year
440 tons  = industrial waste generated per second
1,600 tons  = hourly production of municipal solid waste
21,000 tons = Ohio class ballistic missile submarine
26,600 tons  = industrial waste generated per minute
114,000 tons = aircraft carrier, Nimitz class
600,000 tons  = U.S. daily production of municipal solid waste
1.6 million tons  = U.S. industrial waste generated per hour
3 million tons = industrial toxic waste generated per year in the U.S.
= 24 pounds of industrial waste generated per person per year in the U.S.
10 million tons = industrial airborne pollutants generated per year
(e.g., SOx, NOx, VOCs, CO) in the U.S.
= 80 pounds of airborne pollutants generated per person per year in the U.S.
38 million tons = industrial waste generated per day in the U.S.
200+ million tons  = 1,600+ pounds municipal solid waste generated per person per year in the U.S.
600 million tons  = 4,600 pounds industrial hazardous waste generated per person per year in the U.S.
= 2.3 tons of industrial hazardous waste generated per person per year in the U.S.

2+ billion tons = industrial waste generated by the U.S. chemical industry
= industrial carbon dioxide emissions per year in the U.S.
14 billion tons = industrial waste generated by the U.S. per year
= 107,000 pounds of industrial waste per person per year in the U.S.
= 53 tons of industrial waste per person per year in the U.S.
= weight of 35 automobiles per person per year in the U.S.
560 billion tons  = carbon in all life
4,000 billion tons = carbon in recoverable fossil fuels ÷ 720 x 109
tons of carbon dioxide in atmosophere

I’ve been researching nuclear waste recently, which has been given an impossible requirement of guaranteed 1 million years safety.

This in turn led me to find out that there are other kinds of waste that are far more hazardous and permanent that only require 30 years of safety!

A large number of other important human activities also generate wastes that present persistent or permanent hazards. These include mining wastes; coal ash; deep-well injected hazardous liquid waste; and solid wastes such as lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc, beryllium, and chromium that are managed at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Superfund sites.

For these wastes, the longest compliance time required by the EPA is 10,000 years for deep-well injection of liquid hazardous wastes. For all forms of shallow land disposal, compliance times are substantially shorter. For RCRA solid waste management facilities, a typical permit is for 30 years, and the operator bears responsibility over a time horizon of less than a century. RCRA sites cannot reside in a 100-year flood plain unless they are designed to resist washout by a 100-year flood. Although coal and mining wastes pose potential health risks, federal legislation excludes them from the category of hazardous waste.

The short regulatory compliance times for much hazardous waste do not mean that these materials do not pose any potential long-term danger. David Okrent and Leiming Xing at the University of California Los Angeles have analyzed what would happen over the long term at an approved RCRA site for the disposal of arsenic, chromium, nickel, cadmium, and beryllium. Assuming a loss of societal memory and the absence of monitoring or mitigation, individuals in a farming community at the site 1,000 years in the future would face an estimated 30% lifetime probability of cancer due to this exposure.

The reason that most chemical risks are not subject to long-term regulation is not that policymakers are unaware of the danger. Rather, society has made a deliberate decision to place more weight on the analysis of near-term risks— as well as the benefits derived from these sources of risk— than on very long-term risks. It is also worth noting that some of these risks are not all that long-term. For example, current scientific understanding suggests that the peak risks from 20th- and 21st-century fossil fuel CO2 emissions may occur within several centuries, resulting in major ecosystem alteration, including substantial changes in ocean chemistry and a sea-level rise of up to seven meters.

Coal generates 54% of U.S. electricity and utilities have plans to install an additional 62 gigawatts of coal-fired generation [my comment – delayed by fracked gas, but coal will be back by 2018 as this energy resource declines]. Using 5 billion tons of coal would create 700 million MT of ash and flue-gas desulfurization sludge requiring shallow land disposal, discharge over 650 MT of hazardous mercury, and result in approximately 300 U.S. coal-worker fatalities. And on top of this, coal burning would produce an enormous quantity of carbon dioxide that would contribute to climate change.

References.

Per Peterson. Nuclear Waste and the Distant Future. Regulation of nuclear hazards must be consistent with rules governing other hazardous materials and must balance its risks against those linked to other energy sources. Issues in Science & Technology. National Academy of Sciences.

Please follow and like us:
This entry was posted in Hazardous Waste. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.