Florida wants to cover roads with radioactive waste

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Florida wants to cover roads with radioactive waste

Produced by Florida lawmakers bill, according to which the state would pave its roads with radioactive waste.

Now on Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk, HB 1191 The Florida Department of Transportation may be forced to study the use of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct of fertilizer production, as a paving material, according to a statement. NPR report.

The bill, which conservation groups reportedly opposed, would set a deadline of April 1, 2024, for the Florida Department of Transportation to recommend the use of phosphogypsum. If approved, the material is used in combination with other aggregates such as crushed stone, gravel and sand.

Florida is a major producer of fertilizers, so it leaves a lot of phosphogypsum as waste. According to NPR, phosphorus is an important component of fertilizers, helping plants grow strong roots and increasing crop yields. To achieve this, phosphate rock is dissolved in sulfuric acid to produce phosphoric acid.

Miami skyline – Image courtesy of city government

This commonly used manufacturing process, which dates back to the 1840s, is not very efficient, the report explains. For every phosphoric acid produced, more than five tons of phosphogypsum waste is generated. Phosphogypsum is usually left in huge piles – called “gypstacks” – that can be up to 200 feet high and spread over 800 acres. They’ve also been linked to problems like sinkholes, which explains why lawmakers are so eager to exploit the stuff.

However, according to the EPA, phosphogypsum also contains “detectable amounts” of the radioactive element uranium and other radioactive elements produced by the natural decay of uranium. During the decay of uranium, radium-226 is produced, which in turn decays into radon, a cancer-causing radioactive gas. According to the EPA, these elements are present in the original phosphate rock, but the fertilizer manufacturing process concentrates them, making phosphogypsum more radioactive than the original rock.

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The NPR report cites a fertilizer industry trade group that says using the material would not lead to radiation exposure beyond current EPA limits, and Chinese researchers who are “optimistic” about the ability of a new recycling process to remove radioactive material. caution that further research is needed.

The EPA does not allow the use of phosphogypsum in road construction, a policy that has been in place almost continuously for 30 years (the ban was briefly lifted during the Trump administration). The agency told NPR that Florida would have to apply for a permit. So while the road builders have it tried some unorthodox materials over the years they may not have the opportunity to pave Florida highways with phosphogypsum.

This article was originally published by Motor Authorityeditorial partner ClassicCars.com

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