Florida needs to pave roads with radioactive waste

Florida lawmakers have produced a invoice that might have the state pave its roads with radioactive waste.

Now on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, HB 1191 may compel the Florida Division of Transportation to check the usage of phosphogypsum—a radioactive byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing—as a paving materials, in line with an NPR report.

The invoice, which is reportedly being opposed by conservation teams, units an April 1, 2024 deadline for Florida’s transportation division to make a advice on the usage of phosphogypsum. If accredited, the fabric could be used alongside different aggregates like crushed stone, gravel, and sand.

Florida is a serious producer of fertilizer, and that leaves quite a lot of phosphogypsum as waste. Phosphorous is a vital element of fertilizer, serving to crops to develop robust roots and rising crop productiveness, in line with NPR. To get it, phosphate rock is dissolved in sulfuric acid to make phosphoric acid.

Miami skyline - Image via City of Miami Government

Miami skyline – Picture by way of Metropolis of Miami Authorities

This generally used manufacturing course of, which dates again to the 1840s, is not very environment friendly, the report explains. For each ton of phosphoric acid produced, greater than 5 tons of phosphogypsum waste is produced. The phosphogypsum is often left in huge heaps—known as “gypstacks”—that may be as much as 200 ft excessive and span 800 acres. They’ve additionally been linked to issues like sinkholes. Which explains why lawmakers are so keen to utilize the stuff.

Nonetheless, phosphogypsum additionally comprises “considerable portions” of the radioactive component uranium and different radioactive components produced via the pure decay of uranium, in line with the EPA. Uranium decay varieties radium-226, which in flip decays to kind radon, a cancer-causing radioactive fuel. These components are current within the unique phosphate rock, however the fertilizer manufacturing course of concentrates them, making phosphogypsum extra radioactive than the unique rock, in line with the EPA.

Big rigs in traffic

Huge rigs in site visitors

The NPR report cites a fertilizer-industry commerce group that claims utilizing the fabric would not result in radiation publicity past present EPA limits, and Chinese language researchers which are “optimistic” concerning the skill of a brand new recycling course of to take away radioactive materials, with the caveat that extra analysis is required.

The EPA would not enable use of phosphogypsum in highway development, a coverage that is been in place nearly constantly for 30 years (the ban was briefly lifted through the Trump administration). The company instructed NPR that Florida must apply for approval. So whereas highway builders have tried some unorthodox supplies through the years, they may not get an opportunity to pave Florida highways with phosphogypsum.