From Iceland — Radioactive Pollution A By-Product Of Geothermal Drilling

Radioactive Pollution A By-Product Of Geothermal Drilling

Published September 17, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Sarah Pepin

The Reykjanesvirkjun plant has incurred radioactive pollutants from geothermal drilling since at least 2006, authorities have discovered.

The Icelandic Radiation Safety Authority (GR) has issued a statement on the matter. They point out that, if one drills deep enough into the earth to create a geothermal vent, amongst the waste water and mineral byproducts that will come to the surface will sometimes be naturally-occurring radioactive material.

Reykjanesvirkjun, which drills about two kilometres into the earth, has allegedly been bringing up radioactive material since at least 2006. It must be noted, however, that the radiation itself does not put workers in any danger simply by being near it or even touching it. If, however, this radioactive material makes it into the body – for example, by touching the material and then by touching food, which is then eaten – it can cause health problems.

Ásgeir Margeirsson, director of the power company HS Orka, told RÚV that plant employees were given new equipment and protective gear when the existence of the material was discovered some time last year. Residents in the area, however, were never informed of the radioactive pollutants, as “it has nothing to do with the general public”.

When asked by reporters if the discovery of radioactive waste coming from geothermal drilling means the plant is no longer “green”, his response was blunt: “No. That is out of the question.”


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