Fracking Creates Massive Radioactive Waste Problem
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) openly acknowledges that fracking fluid contains “thousands of chemicals”, but nowhere is there mention of radioactivity in its risk assessments. Now, a new study reveals the “natural gas” industry may be hiding a secret as dark and deadly as the one the nuclear industry has been trying to conceal for decades.
Following recent news that California’s fracking industry will be “repurposing” its toxic wastewater to meet the needs of an agricultural industry driven desperate by the drought, a timely new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that fracking wastewater is not just a source of dangerous petrochemicals but also a highly toxic form of radioactive waste.
Titled “What’s NORMal for Fracking? Estimating Total Radioactivity of Produced Fluids“, the new study tested the hypothesis that fracking wastewater contains the same naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) found in the shale deposits that it is produced from as a drilling byproduct. The primary radionuclides of interest include 226radium, 210polonium, and 210lead, which are decay products of 238uranium and 228thorium, and which are normally safely locked away deep within millions of years old geological formations.
The study focused on the heavily drilled Marcellus Shale, a vast swath of marine sedimentary rock found in eastern North America, and which is known to have about 20 times higher levels of radioactivity from high uranium content compared to most other shales. In 2010, the uranium deposits within the Marcellus Shale were identified by University of Buffalo researchers as being susceptible to being solubilized and made mobile by fracking fluids. The researchers determined that when these fluids inevitably come back to the surface in the form of millions of gallons of wastewater they can pollute streams and the ecosystem with hazardous waste.