Nuclear energy and coal are both considered as the most significant sources of energy for humans. In their absence, there would be no difference between the previous centuries and our luxurious 21st-century. As essential sources of energy though, there exist some differences between the two. Three various aspects in the nature of nuclear energy from coal differentiate the two, they are: characteristics, benefits and adverse effects.
Nuclear energy can either be produced naturally or through man-made equipment. Natural nuclear energy from the sun and other stars come in the form of heat and light produced through nuclear reactions. Man-made nuclear energy, on the other hand, is produced in nuclear reactors.
Nuclear power plants can produce enough power to generate electricity for many cities. Nuclear energy can be released in two ways: first, through fission, when a large nucleus breaks into small nuclei and, second, through fusion, when small nuclei combine to from a large nucleus. (Altprofits, n.d)
One remarkable characteristic of nuclear energy is its being renewable. Nuclear energy does not produce pollution; but it emits harmful radioactive energy.
Today, more people turn to nuclear energy use because it is a clean source of energy. It does not help produce the greenhouse effect or acid rain. Hence, it does not add to the pollution or increase the rate of global warming. Nuclear energy, unlike most sources of energy, is renewable and is a great potential source of energy in the future.
Small amounts of nuclear energy can generate a tremendous amount of energy. For instance, a piece of uranium the size of a pencil eraser can produce more energy than 6 tons of coal can produce, not to mention the amount of waste material left by burning coal.(Ovilia,2011)
Of course, there are drawbacks in the use nuclear energy. Although a clean source of energy, it emits radioactivity which is very harmful to human beings since it can destroy cells and can retain its energy for quite a long period of time. The leakage from the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan serves as an example.
Radioactive substances from nuclear reactors can be harnessed and used as dangerous weapons used by nations to protect themselves from others.
Nuclear energy can undergo combustion even without oxygen and can result in human exposure to radioactive substances (Ovilia, 2011). Hence, designing nuclear power plants using advanced technology is expensive. In spite of all necessary precautions, safety issues remain as to the disposal of nuclear waste since it cannot be released or exposed to the atmosphere.
Coal, one of most abundant fossil fuel presently used, has been utilized as a major source of energy for about 200 years. However, much of the energy used today — including coal — is often non-renewable, which could lead to rapid depletion as demands for more energy supply grow (Little & Match, 2009).
Coal is a fossil fuel formed from trees or marine organisms that lived millions of years ago. It is composed mainly of carbon, which when it undergoes combustion releases carbon dioxide and significant amounts of heat energy.
At present, coal is still the most widely used source of energy worldwide and is the main provider of electricity. Coal is widely used because it is readily available in most parts of the world: 24% in United Kingdom, making it cheaper than other sources of energy (Little & Match, 2009).
The equipment required for the combustion of coal is also fairly inexpensive compared to other sources of energy. Coal can be transported readily to a power plant since it does not contain any dangerous substances, unlike radioactive materials. Coal is also a versatile source of energy and can be used in industries to power boilers and in households to cook BBQs.
Coal industries also help the economy by providing employment since coal mining and the coal distribution process is much larger compared to most industries. (Ann, n.d). However, as mentioned earlier, coal is a limited source of energy. As to the rate of consumption of coal, it is predicted that the supply of coal will not last for many years.
Coal mining and its use has a long history of onerous effects on the environment. Burning coal emits a lot of carbon dioxide and other green house gases that pollute the air. These gases deplete the earth’s ozone layer causing a gradual rise in the earth’s temperature during the past 50 years – a process popularly referred to as global warming (Ovilia, 2011).
Coal miners are common victims of diseases such as emphysema and black lungs as they breathe excessive coal dust. Clean coal technologies (CCTs), encouraged by governments, now help in the reduction of emission of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and some amount of mercury. Emission of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide results in acid rain which poisons plants and aquatic animals. Mercury, on the other hand, can cause great damage to human health when ingested through contaminated fish (Little & Match, 2009).
After considering all the three different aspects in the characteristics of coal and nuclear energy, I believe that nuclear energy is better than coal energy. This is mainly because nuclear energy is renewable and does not cause pollution, unlike coal energy. Our home planet is said to be getting worse from day to day as a result of global warming and coal plays a major role in causing this problem. True, nuclear energy may not be as safe as it seems today; however, scientists and researchers would eventually come up with more efficient technology to make nuclear energy our primary and dependable source of energy in the future.
Differences between Nuclear Energy and Coal Environmental