Radioactive Waste from Horizontal Hydrofracking
By James L. “Chip” Northrup
In a previous paper,1 I compared the horizontal hydrofracking of shale to a “pipe bomb.” Real bombs have been used to frack shale, including at least one nuclear device at Rulison, Colorado.2 The bomb worked, but the gas was too radioactive to be marketable. Ironically, the horizontal hydrofracking of Marcellus shale poses a similar problem – it produces radioactive waste.
The frack fluid effectively leaches radioactive radium out of the shale. When the frack water is pumped back out of the well, it is laced with radium, a potent carcinogen.3 Based on a recent article in Scientific American, the amount of radium in water from the Marcellus is 267 times the safe limit for disposal, and thousands of times the level considered safe to drink.