Chapter 20 Notes

 Alternatives to fossil fuels
 Economy powered by fossil fuels
 Fossil fuels limited and pollutants
 Switching to more conventional alternatives instead of using fossil fuels
o Nuclear, hydroelectric, and biomass energy
o Less of an environmental impact
 The US relies on fossil fuels more than other countries
 Nuclear power is in an odd and bad position in the debate about energy
 Public safety concerns have led to limited development
o Weaponry, waste
 The US generates the most electricity from nuclear power
 Nuclear energy = the energy that holds together protons and neutrons within
the nucleus of an atom
 Nuclear fission = the splitting apart of atomic nuclei
 Nuclear reactors = facilities within nuclear power plants
 Nuclear energy comes from uranium
 Nuclear fuel cycle = the process that begins when uranium is mined
 Radioisotopes = emit subatomic particles and high-energy radiation as they
decay into lighter radioisotopes
 Nuclear reactors use uranium 235
 After several years in a reactor uranium is depleted and it no longer
generates enough energy
 Spent fuel can be reprocessed but It is expensive
 Nuclear fusion = forces together small nuclei of lightweight elements under
extremely high temperature and pressure
 Meltdown = coolant water drained from the reactor
 The most serious accident in the U.S. = Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in
 Chernobyl was the worst accident yet
o 1986 explosion in the plant
o 10 days the radiation escaped
o Still remains contaminated
o 31 people directly, thousands became sick and or developed cancer
 Waste disposal still remains a problem
 They must be put in a safe location
 Waste is put in temp. storage
 US plants are running out of room
 Waste storage Yucca Mountain, Nevada
 Safer to store in central repository because it can be heavily guarded
 Obama’s administration does not agree with it
 Benefits of storing in Yucca
o Remote and unpopulated – it has minimal risk of earthquakes – dry
climate – federal land – water table is deep
 Concerns with Yucca Mountain
 Some people say that earthquakes and volcanoes could destabilize the site’s
 Nuclear waste has to be transported there
 Dilemmas slow nuclear power’s growth
 Bioenergy (biomass energy) = energy obtained from organic material that
makes up organisms
 Biopower = biomass sources are burned in power plants
 Generating heat and electricity
 Biofuels = liquid fuels used to power automobiles
 Co-firing combines biomass and coal
 Gasification turn biomass to steam
 Pyrolysis produces a liquid fuel
 Scales of production
 Biomass increases efficiency because it reduces CO2 emissions and
dependence of fossil fuels
 Ethanol = a biofuel made by fermenting carbohydrate-rich crops
 Ethanol may not be sustainable
 Environmental scientists don’t like corn based ethanol
 Growing corn impacts ecosystems
o Pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation
 Ethanol competes with food and drives up food prices
 Biodiesel = produced from vegetable oil, cooking grease, or animal fats
 Cellulosic ethanol = produced from structural plant material (e.g., corn
stalks) that has no food value
 Burning biomass is not carbon-neutral
 biomass energy releases no net carbon
 Hydropower = uses the kinetic energy of moving water to turn turbines to
generate electricity
 Storage technique = water stored in reservoirs behind dams passes through
the dam and turns turbines
 Run-of-river approach generates electricity without disrupting the river’s
 Hydroelectric power is widely used
 Hydropower accounts for 2.2% of the world’s energy supply
o 15.6% of the world’s electricity productin
 The US government built dams to employ people and help end the economic
depression of the 1930’s
 Hydropower is clean and renewable
o Eroi 10:1
 Hydropower has negative impacts
o Destruction of wildlife habitats
o Natural flooding cycles are disrupted
o Dams block passage of fish, fragmenting the river and reducing
 Most of the worlds larges rivers have been dammed
 China’s Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest dam
 Hydropower wont expand much more