Skip to main content

Radioelemental study of Kolaghat, thermal power plant, West Bengal, India: possible environmental hazards.


Coal combustion in power plants in India produces large quantities of coal-related wastes, e.g. fly ash and bottom ash. Indian coals used in power stations are of high ash content, thus resulting in the generation of large amounts of fly ash (~100 million tons/year). Combustion of coal results in enhanced concentration of most radionuclides found in waste materials. In the present work, an attempt has been made to assess the radiological impact of the Kolaghat thermal power plant in West Bengal, India. The fly ashes and coal from the power plant were analysed for 238U, 232Th and 40K by a NaI (Tl)-based gamma-ray spectrometer. The results show that 226Ra and 232Th range from 81.9–126 and 132–169 Bq/kg in fly ash and 25–50 and 39–55 Bq/kg in coal. These results are high compared to those of other thermal power plants of India. Hence, the Kolaghat fly ash has a significant amount of radioactivity which, if not properly disposed, will be a serious threat to the ambient environment.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.


  1. Baba (2002) Assessment of radioactive contaminants in by-products from Yatagan (Mugla, Turkey) coal-fired power plant. Environ Geol 41:916–921

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Bem H, Wieczorkowski P, Budzanoswki M (2002) Evaluation of technologically enhanced natural radiation near the coal-fired power plants in the Lodz region of Poland. J Environ Radioactivity 61:191–201

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Coles DG, Ragaini RC, Ondov JM (1978) Behaviour of natural radionuclides in Western coal-fired power plants. Environ Sci Technol 12:442

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Gulec N, Gunal (Calci) B, Erler A (2001) Assessment of soil and water contamination around an ash-disposal site: a case study from the Seyitomer coal fired power plant in western Turkey. Environ Geol 40(3):331–344

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Kumar V, Ramachandran TV, Prasad R (1999). Natural radioactivity of Indian building materials and by-products. Appl Radiat Isot 51:93–96

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Lalit BY, Ramachandran TV, Mishra UC (1986) Radiation exposures due to coal-fired power stations in India. Radiat Protect Dosimetry 15(3):197–202

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Mandal A, Sengupta D (2001). Environmental impact of the coal-based thermal power plant at Kolaghat. In: Proceedings National Seminar on mineral based industries. Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam, pp 183–189

  8. Mcdonald PD, Rozendad A, Meijer De RJ (1997) Radiometric characteristics of heavy mineral deposits along the west coast of South Africa. Miner Deposita 32:371–381

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Mishra UC, Ramachandran TV (1984) Environmental impact of coal utilization for electricity generation. In: K.C. Sahoo (ed) Environmental impact of coal utilization from raw materials to waste resources. Proc Int Conf IIT Bombay, pp 117–125

  10. Otake M, Yoshimaru H, Schull WJ (1987) Severe mental retardation among the prenatally exposed survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A comparison of the old and new dosimetry systems. Radiation Effects Research Foundation RERF Technical Report, pp 16–87

    Google Scholar 

  11. Prasad L, Sharma CB, Bhaduri SK (1990) Pollution study of river Ganga by municipal and industrial waste from Buxar to Bhagalpur with special reference to its effective utilization in water supply management and impacts on public health: a case study from Bihar, Eastern India, Proc City Water Fronts, Central Water Commission, New Delhi, pp 8–15

    Google Scholar 

  12. Rajan MP, Iyengar MAR, Ramachandran TV (1995) Radioactivity aspects of Indian coals. Curr Sci 69(7):592–596

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Rao RU (1974) Gamma-ray spectrometric set up at NGRI for analysis of U, Th, and K in rocks. Geophys Res Bull 12(2 and 3)

  14. Rouni PK, Petropoulos NP, Anagnostakis EP, Hingis Simopoulos SE (2001) Radioenvironmental survey of the Megalopolis lignite field basin. Sci Total Environ 272:261–272

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Tso MYW, Leung KCJ (1996) Radiological impact of coal ash from the power plants in Hong Kong. J Environ Radioactivity 30(1):1–14

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. UNSCEAR (1988) Ionizing radiation: sources and biological effects. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, United Nations, New York

    Google Scholar 

  17. Vijayan V, Behera SN (1999) Studies on natural radioactivity in coal ash. In: Mishra PC, Naik A (eds) Environmental management in coal mining and thermal power plants. Technoscience, Jaipur, pp 453–456

  18. Zielinski RA, Budahn JR (1986) Radionuclides in coal and coal combustion waste products: Characterization of coal and coal combustion products from a coal-fired power plant. USGS Open File Report, pp 98–342

    Google Scholar 

Download references


We are grateful to the Kolaghat Thermal Power Plant authorities for allowing us to carry out the fieldwork and providing us with samples, to Dr. R. Srinivasan and Dr. G.K. Reddy for the radiometric assaying on rock samples using gamma-ray spectrometry at the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. Sengupta.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mandal, A., Sengupta, D. Radioelemental study of Kolaghat, thermal power plant, West Bengal, India: possible environmental hazards.. Env Geol 44, 180–186 (2003).

Download citation


  • Bottom ash
  • Fly ash
  • Power plant
  • Radioactivity
  • Kolaghat
  • West Bengal
  • India