Coal-Fired  Power  Plant  Emissions

Approximately 52% of the United States' electricity is generated using coal as fuel. Coal is abundant and
relatively inexpensive, but it also contains a large number of impurities.
Coal contains trace quantities of the naturally-occurring radionuclides uranium and thorium, as well as their
radioactive decay products, and potassium-40. When coal is burned, minerals, including most of the
radionuclides, do not burn and concentrate in the ash.
While most of the ash is captured, tiny solid particles known as "fly ash," including some radionuclides,
escape from the boiler into the atmosphere. Current regulations focus on using control technology to reduce
the amount of fly ash that escapes including most radioactive particles, and on proper disposal of the fly ash.

Who  is protecting you

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The EPA develops standards under the Clean Air Act;  Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act; Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and
Liability Act for coal-fired power plants. EPA has primary responsibility for setting federal radiation
standards for exposure to naturally-occurring radioactive materials.

The States
Each state has one or more programs to address radiation protection, including naturally-occurring radioactive
materials. Most states also control public exposure to radioactive through programs implementing the federal
Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental laws under authority delegated by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
The DOE provides grants for research and studies on coal-fired plants and on clean coal technologies.

What can you do to protect yourself

Radioactive and non-radioactive emissions from coal-fired power plants most strongly affect those living and
working near the plant. The hazards associated with radioactive emissions are similar to those of other

Steps taken to reduce exposure to non-radioactive air pollutants also will reduce exposure to radioactive
pollutants. On days when the Air Quality Index (AQI)  indicates dangerous or higher than average
concentrations of air pollutants, follow recommendations made by local health officials, such as staying
indoors. To find the AQI for your area, check the government's AirNow website.


You can explore this radiation source further through the resources at the following URL:

We provide these resources on-line rather than here so  we can keep the links up-to-date.
 United States Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (6608J)  |   EPA 402-F-06-028
April 2006