Consequences of Usage of Nuclear Energy and Fossil Fuels

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Natural resources are substances that exist in nature without the involvement of human beings. They are of grave importance in our world because not only does it create business opportunities, it generates huge amounts of energy that is use to create electricity, for transportation and to heat or cool houses. Even though these resources naturally occur, they take about hundreds of thousands of years to be replaced in quantities that are feasible.

The current generation is most concerned with the depletion of these resources, making them limited in quantity. Non-renewable resources release greenhouse gases when they are burned, now, due to the overuse it has become the main cause of global warming and climate change. Nevertheless, some people believe they need not be too concerned with the reduction of these resources unless they are affected by it, for example when the price of gas increases. Depletion is not the only issue at hand but the quality of the resources being produced is not as worthy as it used to be. Since, our existing energy system is entirely based on fossil fuels the energy crisis is a growing problem and despite the effort made by governments and concerned individuals, it is only getting worse day by day.

Fossil fuels are formed from the decaying remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago and are now fossilized. Crude oil, coal, and natural gas are all fossil fuels and they have a high carbon and hydrogen content. A process called “burning” is used, it is a chemical reaction with oxygen in the air that releases carbon dioxide with the help of the greenhouse effect, which traps heat in the atmosphere and causes a rise in the Earth’s temperature. This has a massive impact on the environment, the first aspect being air pollution.

When using conversion devices for ‘burning’ some hydrocarbons escape into the air, they evaporate before they can even be burnt. In the past, lead compounds were the main reason for air pollution but now they have been completely stopped lead compounds from being added to gasoline significantly condensing the matter. Additional harmful effects arise from the interaction of pollutants with the environment, besides the greenhouse effect, are acid rain, smog, and the high ozone levels in the air. The three of the main pollutants that cause this are, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. A product of incomplete combustion is Carbon monoxide (CO), a highly poisonous gas and the core component of photochemical smog. Transportation vehicles and automobiles are the main source for the contamination of this gas, and it emits greenhouse gases which link it to climate change and global warming. This causes a rise in the temperature of land and sea, causing other extreme weather events and an increase in storm activity.

Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are also products of the combustion of fossil fuels. When they are combined with water, it forms nitric and sulfuric acid that are components of acid rain, which easily corrodes or attacks many materials. One source says that, “It has been estimated that some 100 million tons of CO are emitted every year in the U.S. Use of cold engines – the result of frequent short trips – and of improperly tuned engines simply does not allow the carbon in gasoline to burn completely into carbon dioxide. As much as 80% of today's automobile emissions occur during cold starts that burn fossil fuels cannot be turned off and on so easily, and their contribution to this pollution problem is insignificant.” (K.Saritha Rani, 2014)

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Finally, the depletion of the ozone layer increases the chances of the Earth to be exposed to the ultraviolet radiation which can be seriously unsafe.

The ground level-ozone layer is the other aspect, but is dependent on the concentration in air because at high concentrations as it affects ecosystems that include parks, forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas as well as sensitive vegetation. Other aspects that have an impact are particulate matter emissions like soot that is formed during combustion, unburned hydrocarbons that is associated with the use of fuels like gasoline. “The 2007 global fossil-fuel carbon emission estimate, 8365 million metric tons of carbon, represents an all-time high and a 1.7% increase from 2006. Globally, liquid and solid fuels accounted for 76.3% of the emissions from fossil-fuel burning and cement production in 2007. Combustion of gas fuels (e.g., natural gas) accounted for 18.5% (1551 million metric tons of carbon) of the total emissions from fossil fuels in 2007 and reflects a gradually increasing global utilization of natural gas.” (Boden, 2010) There are several health issues that come from inhaling these gases like headache, nausea, unconsciousness, and when extremely exposed it can lead to deaths. For example carbon monoxide can makes it difficult for people to have babies. They also contribute to long-term respiratory problems as well as putting people with asthma, children and those who are active outdoor workers at serious risk.

Nuclear energy is energy that is retrieved from the core of an atom by a process called nuclear fission, the splitting of atoms. There are two form of nuclear fission, one is radioactive decay and the other is a nuclear reaction. Uranium is the most common fuel used for nuclear power as it can be spilt easily and releases a substantial amount of energy in the form of radiation and heat. A group of machines called a nuclear reactor controls nuclear fission and after the atoms are split, tiny particles called fission products are released.

A chain reaction is started after other uranium atoms are split and this creates the heat. This heat then warms the reactors cooling agent, usually water, producing steam. The steam that is made spin the turbines that then powers up generators, or engines thus creating electricity. Nuclear poison are rods made of materials such as a kind of element xenon, which allows absorption of some excess fission products. The rods control and adjust the total electricity produced, the more the number of rods the slower and controlled the reaction will be, and removal of these rods will improve the chain reaction hence generating more electricity. According to National Geographic “As of 2011, about 15 percent of the world's electricity is generated by nuclear power plants. The United States has more than 100 reactors, although it creates most of its electricity from fossil fuels and hydroelectric energy. Nations such as Lithuania, France, and Slovakia create almost all of their electricity from nuclear power plants.” Nuclear fission has both positive and negative aspects that need to be considered because of the large quantities of energy it generates.

It can be rather beneficial as it has existed for decades so its technology is well understood by scientists and due to the advancement being developed at a fast pace it is the best option against other types of alternative energy. Another factor is that it is inexpensive to operate after the initial expense is completed. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy helps reduce the impact energy has on the environment as it emits less greenhouse gases.

The nuclear energy produced by nuclear fission is greatly immense therefore meeting the demand of our rapidly growing world as ever more people drive cars, use electronic devices, build houses, and perform other activities that relate to the intensive usage of energy. On top of that, the process to create such energy is fairly quick and some types build their own fuels during the process of creating the power required by us. Hence, making it recyclable even though it is not a renewable resource. Despite the fact that nuclear fission is of great value to our progressing world its negative influences need to be equally evaluated.

When used for the wrong reasons like for powerful weapons, nuclear fission is dangerous to lives of mankind. Being a basis of cheap and clean power does not mean it is not harmful to the employees of nuclear plants who are exposed to the radiation every single day. This may lead to health issues such as cancers to develop over long periods of exposure to radiation. Initially it can be expensive because they require specialized equipment and machinery and before it can become fully functional the plant needs to consider the safety measures used to protect theirs workers and these measures would cost a majorly.

In conclusion, our modern world will require various method to improve the situation. Nuclear energy is one aspect to recovering the damage been done although it might be impossible to completely recover what is destroyed small changes like this could have a significant impact on our world.

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