Radioactive Material Found in Fracking Waste; Searching Space for H20

Posted December 21st, 2016 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
3 comments

Solid waste from horizontal gas wells contains radioactive material that ends up in landfills. (American Chemical Society)

Solid waste from horizontal gas wells contains radioactive material that ends up in landfills. (American Chemical Society)

Radioactive Isotopes Found in Fracking Waste

US oil and natural gas production, has been boosted in recent years by a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking.”

But this practice has also been criticized for its possible impact on the environment because of the wastewater this method generates.

A new study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology, which examined solid well waste from Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, finds that the waste contains naturally occurring radioactive material that had not been previously reported.

In addition to the early reports of uranium 238 and radium 226, the study indicates that collected waste samples also contain elevated levels of the radioactive isotopes uranium-234, thorium-230, lead-210 and polonium-210.

Uranium-238 and radium-226 have been reported in previous such samples.

The compound view shows a new ALMA Band 5 view of the colliding galaxy system Arp 220 - in red - on top of an image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope -blue/green - (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA)

The compound view shows a new ALMA Band 5 view of the colliding galaxy system Arp 220 – in red – on top of an image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope -blue/green – (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA)

New ALMA Radio Receivers May Find Water in Universe

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA, in Chile, is a collection of some 66 radio telescope antennas that work together to provide astronomers to study some of the earliest and most distant galaxies in the Universe.

Regions of space where these objects are located tend to be cold and dark and are difficult if not impossible to detect in visible light wavelengths.

But these features can be seen clearly and brightly when they are observed in the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Now, ALMA has received an upgrade with the installation of new Band 5 receivers to a select set of the array’s antennas.

Band 5 refers a receiving range of frequencies that can vary from 582 to 806 megahertz.

These devices will make its observations in a whole new section of the radio spectrum and among other things will provide astronomers with a better way to look for signs of water in the nearby Universe.

This is an artist's rendering of Tingmiatornis arctica, the new prehistoric bird species discovered by scientists at the University of Rochester. (Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

Artist’s rendering of Tingmiatornis arctica, the new prehistoric bird species discovered by scientists at the University of Rochester. (Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

New Prehistoric Bird Species Discovered

Scientists have discovered a new ancient bird species that lived in the Canadian arctic some 90 million years ago during Cretaceous period.

They say that fossils leading to the discovery are among the oldest avian fossils that have been found in the northernmost latitudes.

The scientists describe this new ancient bird species as a cross between a large seagull and another diving bird species like cormorants.

They add that this creature probably had teeth as well.

The new fossils along with those gathered in the same area in the past suggest that the birds made their home near a peaceful freshwater bay, which was also home to turtles, large freshwater fish, and a now extinct crocodile-like reptiles called champsosaurs.

The scientists describe the climate in the Canadian arctic, some 90 to 84 million years ago, as being similar to northern Florida today – that is, warm through much of the year.

European Space Agency's three satellite Swarm network provide a high-resolution picture of the Earth's magnetic field (ESA)

European Space Agency’s three satellite Swarm network provide a high-resolution picture of the Earth’s magnetic field (ESA)

Jet Stream Found in Earth’s Molten Outer Core

The Earth’s core, which lies nearly 3,000 kilometers below the surface, is made of two layers.

At the very center of the Earth is the inner core, which scientists say is a solid sphere made of an iron-nickel alloy. Surrounding the inner core is the outer core of which is made of molten iron and nickel that’s believed to be between 4000-5000º Celsius.

New data gathered by the European Space Agency’s three satellite Swarm network is providing scientists with an x-ray view of the Earth’s core.

This information has led to the discovery of a jet stream flowing within the molten outer core.

Like the jet stream of air currents in the atmosphere, scientists explain that this jet stream in the outer core is a moving belt of molten material circling its magnetic North Pole and is traveling at a speed of about 40 kilometers per year.

Researchers who made the discovery say this jet stream lines-up with a boundary between two regions within the core.

Taking Sauna Baths May Help Prevent Dementia

A new study by Finnish researchers, and published in the journal Age and Aging, suggests taking frequent sauna baths can reduce the risk of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists from the University of Eastern Finland followed 2,000 middle-age men for twenty years as part of its ongoing Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD).

They found that participants who took sauna baths between 4 to 7 times per week were 66% less likely of being diagnosed with dementia than those doing so once a week.

An earlier report from the continuing study indicated that frequent sauna bathing also considerably decreases the risk of sudden cardiac death, the risk of death due to coronary artery disease and other cardiac events, as well as overall mortality.

According to the paper’s authors the association between sauna bathing and the risk of dementia had not been studied until recently.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

3 responses to “Radioactive Material Found in Fracking Waste; Searching Space for H20”

  1. MarcusAureliusII says:

    It is hardly surprising that radioactive material exists naturally within layers of earth. In most places the concentrations are very low. Sensational reports which do not indicate the levels and compare them to dangerous thresholds are misleading and are designed to fuel one side of a political debate with junk science by spreading alarm. Homeowners already know that their homes may have traces of radon in them and this can be mitigated by proper venting. There are many other dangerous substances occurring naturally in soil that can appear in one place or another. These include arsenic, lead, antimony, asbestos, and many others. Soil analysis should not only report what is in the waste but their levels and use of appropriate measures to deal with them is indicated where appropriate. You are at potential risk every time you put a shovel in the earth.

  2. MarcusAureliusII says:

    I’ve often wondered about the origin of the earth’s magnetic field. Is it due to iron in the core? It can’t be. That’s because above about 1420 degrees F steel becomes non magnetic and cannot regain its magnetic properties until it drops below 500 degrees F. The melting point is 2950 degrees F. Therefore the magnetic field must come from circulating currents within the earth. But how? What gives rise to these currents? Are they unstable? Do they shift under internal or external influence? As the field provides protection to the surface, these questions strike me as very important.

  3. Jennifer Louviere says:

    This is a very interesting blog. Thank you so much for sharing.