Proponents of wind turbine energy tout its environmental advantages over fossil fuel energy sources that produce carbon dioxide emissions.
But what they don't talk about is the vast amount of radioactive waste and other toxic substances resulting from the mining of the rare earth minerals needed by wind turbines, according to a disturbing report from two energy experts.
Wind turbines use magnets made with neodymium and dysprosium, rare earth minerals mined almost exclusively in China, reported Travis Fisher and Alex Fitzsimmons, policy associates with the Institute for Energy Research.
An MIT study estimated that a 2-megawatt wind turbine contains about 752 pounds of rare earth minerals.
Simon Parry of Britain's Daily Mail traveled to Baotou in northern China to view the mines, factories, and dumping grounds associated with China's rare earth industry, including a 5-mile-wide lake of industrial waste.
"This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for 7 million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components," Parry wrote.
"Rusting pipelines meander for miles from factories processing rare earths in Baotou out to the man-made lake where, mixed with water, the foul-smelling radioactive waste from this industrial process is pumped day after day."
As the lake of waste grew larger, local farmers told Parry, "anything we planted just withered, then our animals started to sicken and die."
Residents of a nearby village said their teeth began to fall out, their hair turned white at young ages, and they suffered from severe skin and respiratory diseases. Children were born with soft bones and the incidence of cancer and osteoporosis soared, the Mail reported.
The lake's radiation levels are 10 times higher than in the surrounding countryside, official studies found.
In Baotou, most people wear face masks wherever they go, Parry noted.
The report from Fisher and Fitzsimmons, published by Rightside News, disclosed that mining one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste.
Last year the United States added 13,131 megawatts of wind-generating capacity, and at least 4.9 million pounds of rare earths were used in the turbines installed in 2012. That means at least 4.9 million pounds of radioactive waste were created to make those turbines.
In comparison, the U.S. nuclear industry produces between 4.4 and 5 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel each year. So the U.S. wind industry most likely created more radioactive waste last year than America's entire nuclear industry — while accounting for just 3.5 percent of all electricity generated in the country.
And the MIT study revealed that the demand for dysprosium could rise by 2,600 percent in the next 25 years as the wind industry grows, the Rightside News authors warn.
They conclude: "All forms of energy production have some environmental impact. However, it is disingenuous for wind lobbyists to hide the impacts of their industry while highlighting the impacts of others.
"From illegal bird kills to radioactive waste, wind energy poses serious environmental risks that the wind lobby would prefer you never know about."