A comparison of nuclear power and coal power

Compare the Efficiency of Different Power Plants written by: How efficiently does this conversion take place? We take look at the conversion efficiencies of the common types of Electricity generation plants.

A comparison of nuclear power and coal power

In addition to the technical differences between the two approaches, they affect the environment differently: Fossil-fuel plants are notorious for greenhouse gas emissions, whereas nuclear reactors are known for radioactive waste, which can remain hazardous for thousands of years.

Radioactivity A fossil-fueled power plant relies on the ancient technology of fire to produce heat; such plants burn hydrocarbon fuels such as methane or pulverized coal. The process of combustion releases energy from the chemical bonds in the fuel.

By contrast, nuclear reactors exploit the heat of radioactivity.

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The heavy, unstable atoms of uranium and plutonium, both common nuclear fuels, decay into lighter elements while generating abundant heat. Fuel Energy Density Because nuclear reactions are much more energetic than chemical ones, a pound of nuclear fuel carries about 1 million times the energy as a pound of fossil fuel.

According to the University of Florida, a 1 gigawatt coal-fired power plant requires 9, tons of fuel per day; an equivalent nuclear plant consumes about 3 kilograms 6.

Sciencing Video Vault Emission Breakdown The combustion reactions that power a fossil fuel plant consume fuel and oxygen and produce water vapor, carbon dioxide and energy. The combustion of coal, natural gas and oil always yields CO2, a gas believed to be strongly connected to global warming.

Because coal and oil have noncombustible impurities, these sources also produce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

A nuclear power plant does not use chemical reactions to produce energy; during normal operations, it has no gaseous emissions. Environmental Dangers Hazards exist with both fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, although many of the dangers are different.

The reactor design of most operating nuclear plants requires the constant flow of water to keep the reactor from overheating and possibly releasing radioactivity into the environment; the Fukushima disaster in happened when water pumps failed.

Coal-fired power plants generate large amounts of ash, solid waste that contains mercury, arsenic and other hazardous materials. Some plant operators contain the ash in gigantic ponds, which may rupture, contaminating the surrounding area.

Such an accident happened in Tennessee inreleasing 1.The efficiency of nuclear plants is little different. On the steam turbine side they use the Rankine thermodynamic cycle with steam temperatures at saturated conditions.


This gives a lower thermal cycle efficiency than the high temperature coal fired power plants. Nuclear power generation originated with the discovery of nuclear fission, the splitting of uranium atoms. When fission occurs, huge amounts of energy are released, and the heat generation can create steam to spin turbines, similar to the way electricity is generated by coal.

A comparison of nuclear power and coal power

Cost Comparison for Nuclear vs. Coal. To accurately compare the cost of nuclear against other energy sources, one must include the following costs: 1. Fuel costs. The day to day costs associated with operating the nuclear power . A typical coal-burning power plant creates over , tons of waste ash and sludge each year.

A comparison of nuclear power and coal power

That residue forms a toxic mess with pollutants such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury (See Reference 5). A typical nuclear power plant generates 20 metric tons of radioactive waste annually. The low costs of solar power and wind power crush coal power, crush nuclear power, and beat natural gas by a sizable margin.

Click to embiggen. Now, looking at these comparisons, one might wonder how any dirty energy power plants get built today. The low costs of solar power and wind power crush coal power, crush nuclear power, and beat natural gas by a sizable margin.

Click to embiggen.

Differences Between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy | Difference Between