Geologic Distribution: Uranium appears to be organically bound in most coals 1. Uranium in coal may also be associated with zircon, rare earth element phosphates, uraninite, apatite, rutile and calcite 2. Mean whole coal uranium was 1.59 ppm. Uranium did not correlate with ash yield and very poorly with tellurium (Te), bismuth (Bi), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), thorium (Th) and praseodymium (Pr). Most West Virginia coal beds averaged less than 2 ppm on a whole coal basis. Lower Pennsylvanian coals contained slightly higher uranium contents than coals of the Middle and Upper Pennsylvanian. Individual thin deep drill core samples of the Bakerstown and Harlem coals from Mineral and Tucker counties and Redstone and Sewickley coal samples from Wetzel and Marion counties contained anomalously high uranium that may be related to groundwater chemistry (see cautionary note page).
Economic Impact: Coal ash may be a source of uranium 1. Uranium is of prime importance as a nuclear fuel, x-ray targets for high energy x-rays and in photographic toners 3.
Environmental Impact: Radioactivity from uranium in coal released during combustion is of environmental concern, though several studies have shown that these emissions are much less than emissions of natural origin 1. Radiation may be concentrated in fly ash 1. Uranium emissions from modern power plants is of no concern 4. Additionally uranium is a toxic substance and its release during coal combustion is of concern 3.
1. Swaine, D.J., (1990)
2. Finkelman, R.B., (1981)
3. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
4. Beck, H.L. and Miller, K.M., (1980)
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