Fracking mechanism to produce radioactive waste

20.09.2018 - London, UK - Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: Spanish

Fracking mechanism to produce radioactive waste
A fracturing operation in progress (Image by Joshua Doubek • CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

A new piece of research published by Science Daily demonstrates the way “slick water and black shale in fracking combine to produce radioactive waste: Research papers explain the transfer of radium during hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas”.

“Radioactivity in fracking wastewater comes from the interaction between a chemical slurry and ancient shale during the hydraulic fracturing process, according to Dartmouth College research…

“The study, detailed in twin papers appearing in Chemical Geology, is the first research that characterizes the phenomenon of radium transfer in the widely-used method to extract oil and gas. The findings add to what is already generally known about the mechanisms of radium release and could help the search for solutions to challenges in the fracking industry…

“The stuff that comes out when you frack is extremely salty and full of nasties,” said Mukul Sharma, a professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth and head of the research project. “The question is how did the waste become radioactive? This study gives a detailed description of that process.”…

“The research confirms that as wastewater travels through the fracture network and returns to the fracking drill hole, it becomes progressively enriched in salts. The highly-saline composition of the wastewater is responsible for extracting radium from the shale and for bringing it to the surface.

“Radium is sitting on mineral and organic surfaces within the fracking site waiting to be dislodged. When water with the right salinity comes by, it takes it on the radioactivity and transports it,” said Sharma.”

Water pollution, small earthquakes…

The potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing include air emissions and climate change, high water consumption, water contamination, land use, risk of earthquakes, noise pollution, and health effects on humans. Air emissions are primarily methane that escapes from wells, along with industrial emissions from equipment used in the extraction process. Modern UK and EU regulation requires zero emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Escape of methane is a bigger problem in older wells than in ones built under more recent EU legislation. Wikipedia

In spite of all the potential problems governments continue to issue licences for the exploitation of shale gas against the wishes of the local people where those activities are to take place. In the UK Frack Off  campaigns to stop fracking sites, and other grassroot organisations in various countries raise the alarm when new sites are proposed. However the science of the risks associated with this technology is only just emerging, and is certainly ignored when it does, in the name of profit.

Categories: Ecology and Environment, Health, International
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