Wind Turbine Related Radiation: Wind Energy is NOT Free, Clean, or Green

This is the last in a recent series I’ve posted about radiation and some of our energy sources. It started with a commentary arguing that there are good reasons to categorize Nuclear power as a “renewable” source of electrical energy. Next was Nuclear Power Radiation — Part 1 (which outlined radiation from normal nuclear power operations, waste, and misc.). Then there was Nuclear Power Radiation — Part 2 which briefly covered the rest of the well-known nuclear radiation possibilities…

Here I will give a quickie overview of a radiation source that most people have never heard about. Lobbyists and other politically correct parties paint industrial wind energy as “free, clean, and green.” Although none of that is true, this deceptiveness is dismissed as marketing puffery. With no consequences for lying, is it any wonder that we are drowning in dishonesty?

A major eye-opener is that wind turbine manufacture results in horrific environmental degradation (also see here and here). A lot of this happens in China so it is conveniently out of sight. But wait, the same organizations who are promoting wind energy also strongly push the one-world (“we’re all in this together”) ideology — so they should be very concerned about what happens in China too, right?

Let’s look at one particular matter: Rare Earth Elements (REEs). In addition to significant air and water pollution, the processing of REEs (30+ steps) results in a large amount of radioactive waste. Yes, you read that correctly.

How much radioactive waste per turbine? My understanding is the following:

Fact 1: Each wind turbine is reported to have several thousands of pounds of REEs (i.e., typically 2000± pounds per MW — and today’s turbines are 4+MW).

Fact 2: A US Army analyst reports (reference page 16) that for every ton of REE, there can be about a ton of radioactive waste!

Once we have absorbed the significance of these numbers, an interesting question arises: how does the quantity of radioactive waste produced by a 1 GW nuclear facility compare to the quantity of radioactive waste produced by the manufacture of wind turbines that would result in an equivalent amount of annual electricity? Let’s look at it by weight.

The key wind energy assumptions are:

a) An optimistic capacity factor of 33% is assumed.

b) There are 2000± pounds of REEs per face value wind turbine MW.

c) Every ton of REE results in about a ton of radioactive waste.

d) Since some of the reported waste includes water, we’ll generously assume that about 50%± of the weight is due to H2O.

So, the radioactive waste for a 3 GW wind facility:

3000 MW x 2000 REE/MW x 1 Waste/REE x .5 =

3,000,000± pounds of radioactive waste

How does this compare to a nuclear facility? 

There are two methods for processing nuclear fuel (typically uranium). In the U.S., the fuel is used once (i.e., is a single pass). In the rest of the world, the fuel is used a second time, which substantially reduces the amount of resulting waste.

The key nuclear assumptions are:

a) A 1 GW Nuclear facility has 27± tonnes/year (about 60,000 pounds/year) of used uranium.

b) If reprocessed, only 3% of this is radioactive waste (60,000 x 3% = 1,800). [See this for a good explanation of radioactive waste, and for items a & b.]

c) Twenty years of nuclear power generation is used as that is a very generous expected life of a wind turbine.

d) The reactor is a Light Water Reactor (LWR) [i.e., a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR), or a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR)].

The single-pass radioactive waste figures for a 1 GW nuclear facility:

—>  60,000± pounds per year. Therefore the twenty-year total of nuclear radioactive waste would be 60,000± x 20 = 1,200,000± pounds of radioactive waste

The double-pass radioactive waste figures for a 1 GW nuclear facility:

—> 1,800± pounds per year. Therefore the twenty-year total of nuclear radioactive waste would be 1,800± x 20 = 36,000± pounds of radioactive waste

Compare these to the figure above: 3,000,000± pounds of radioactive waste for an equivalent amount of electricity produced by wind energy, over twenty years.

The amazing conclusion is that over the lifetime of a wind project (20 years), wind energy produces more radioactive waste per MWH than a nuclear facility!

So we’ve lifted another wind energy rock, and have found a very disturbing industry secret. The few others who have looked into this have labeled it as the 800-pound Gorilla In The Room. Another good piece is from IER: Big Wind’s Dirty Little Secret: Toxic Lakes and Radioactive Waste.

One more peek under another rock… It’s bad enough to largely rely on Communist China for unneeded materials, but it’s even worse when this investigation concluded that the Chinese rare earth industry is “dominated by criminal gangs.” In other words, much of every dollar spent on rare earths for wind turbines goes into things like fentanyl production — which is then sent to the US to kill its citizens…

So… the next time that a wind marketer feeds you the “wind is green” sales pitch, say Not so fast!

©2024. John Droz, Jr. All rights reserved.

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