Big Wind’s Dirty Little Secret

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from NCPA,

The wind industry promotes itself as better for the environment than traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. But there are many ways to skin a cat. Modern wind turbines depend on rare earth minerals mined primarily from China. The process of extracting these minerals imposes wretched environmental and public health impacts on local communities.

Simon Parry from the Daily Mail traveled to Baotou, China, to see the mines, factories, and dumping grounds associated with China’s rare-earths industry. What he found was truly haunting: As more factories sprang up, the banks grew higher, the lake grew larger and the stench and fumes grew more overwhelming. People too began to suffer.

Estimates of the exact amount of rare earth minerals in wind turbines vary, but in any case the numbers are staggering. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Sciences:

– A 2 megawatt (MW) wind turbine contains about 800 pounds of neodymium and 130 pounds of dysprosium.

– The MIT study cited above estimates that a 2 MW wind turbine contains about 752 pounds of rare earth minerals.

-To quantify this in terms of environmental damages, consider that mining one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste, according to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

In 2012, the U.S. added a record 13,131 MW of wind generating capacity. That means that between 4.9 million pounds (using MIT’s estimate) and 6.1 million pounds (using the Bulletin of Atomic Science’s estimate) of rare earths were used in wind turbines installed in 2012. It also means that between 4.9 million and 6.1 million pounds of radioactive waste were created to make these wind turbines.

That means the U.S. wind industry may well have created more radioactive waste last year than our entire nuclear industry produced in spent fuel.

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