A Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicator For Ash Management In Coal-Based Power Generation

Hansen, Y.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2002
The coal-based power generation industry faces increased pressure from all sectors to improve its environmental performance. This is due to increased awareness of and concerns regarding greenhouse-and acid-gas emissions, toxic metal releases (to both air and water) and water availability. A methodology to assess this industry?s environmental performance is needed. Such a methodology should assess all environmental impacts accurately, recognizing the irspatial and temporal dependence, and taking into account the social acceptability of technologies employed. Here, we develop a methodology to determine the environ-mental impact associated with solid wastes generated by this industry, and apply this to the specific case of ash management. More specifically, the case study compares the environmental footprint of an ash deposit for a number of operational water management scenarios. The methodology considers leachate generation processes from ash impoundments to obtain a time-dependent concentration profile of mobile constituents at the interface between the ash impoundment and the surrounding environment. This leachate prediction modelling is subsequently linked to plume dispersion modelling tools to determine the fate and transport of leached components, predominantly salts, into groundwater. Together, these provide a measure of the extent to which a land mass is affected by leachate migration from the deposit. To determine the exact boundary between regions of acceptable and unacceptable risk to the environment, we use Ecological Risk Assessment concepts. In this way it is possible to obtain a time dependent affected land footprint which could be used as an indicator of the environmental impact of solid waste management practices. This information can be included in a set of environmental criteria which form the basis of an overall environ-mental impact assessment, using tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The value of LCA is that its structure is consistent with accepted models of environmental decision making, where different approaches to valuation in impact assessment assist in prioritizing impacts on the basis of their perceived significance. The proposed ?affected land footprint? metric represents a significant improvement over current LCA impact indicators for solid waste management practices. Keywords: Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Risk Assessment; Life Cycle Assessment; coal ash; leachability; salinity
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