The Energy Systems division conducts applied research to strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and enable energy independence and national security. Dude, where’s my flying car? Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis. Societies use energy for transportation, manufacturing, illumination, heating sources of energy pdf file air conditioning, and communication, for industrial, commercial, and domestic purposes.
Energy resources may be classified as primary resources, where the resource can be used in substantially its original form, or as secondary resources, where the energy source must be converted into a more conveniently usable form. Non-renewable resources are significantly depleted by human use, whereas renewable resources are produced by ongoing processes that can sustain indefinite human exploitation. Energy resources may be classified as primary resources, suitable for end use without conversion to another form, or secondary resources, where the usable form of energy required substantial conversion from a primary source. Another important classification is based on the time required to regenerate an energy resource. Renewable” resources are those that recover their capacity in a time significant by human needs. Examples are hydroelectric power or wind power, when the natural phenomena that are the primary source of energy are ongoing and not depleted by human demands.
Non-renewable resources are those that are significantly depleted by human usage and that will not recover their potential significantly during human lifetimes. An example of a non-renewable energy source is coal, which does not form naturally at a rate that would support human use. The technology and infrastructure already exist for the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are currently economical for decentralised energy use.
While the processes that created fossil fuels are ongoing, fuels are consumed far more quickly than the natural rate of replenishment. Extracting fuels becomes increasingly costly as society consumes the most accessible fuel deposits. 8 trillion would be required to maintain current levels of production for 25 years. The fossil fuels are mainly carbon compounds. Fission of uranium produces nearly all economically significant nuclear power.
More than 60 years after the first attempts, commercial fusion power production remains unlikely before 2050. There have also been some nuclear submarine accidents. In terms of lives lost per unit of energy generated, analysis has determined that nuclear power has caused less fatalities per unit of energy generated than the other major sources of energy generation. However, the economic costs of nuclear power accidents is high, and meltdowns can take decades to clean up. The human costs of evacuations of affected populations and lost livelihoods is also significant. This study does not include fossil fuel related cancer and other indirect deaths created by the use of fossil fuel consumption in its “severe accident” classification, which would be an accident with more than 5 fatalities. 2020, all at existing plants.
In 2013, four aging, uncompetitive, reactors were permanently closed. Germany decided to close all its reactors by 2022, and Italy has banned nuclear power. Recent experiments in extraction of uranium use polymer ropes that are coated with a substance that selectively absorbs uranium from seawater. This process could make the considerable volume of uranium dissolved in seawater exploitable for energy production. Since ongoing geologic processes carry uranium to the sea in amounts comparable to the amount that would be extracted by this process, in a sense the sea-borne uranium becomes a sustainable resource. Radiation checks led to bans on some shipments of vegetables and fish.
The economics of new nuclear power plants is a controversial subject, since there are diverging views on this topic, and multibillion-dollar investments ride on the choice of an energy source. In recent years there has been a slowdown of electricity demand growth and financing has become more difficult, which affects large projects such as nuclear reactors, with very large upfront costs and long project cycles which carry a large variety of risks. In Eastern Europe, a number of long-established projects are struggling to find finance, notably Belene in Bulgaria and the additional reactors at Cernavoda in Romania, and some potential backers have pulled out. Where cheap gas is available and its future supply relatively secure, this also poses a major problem for nuclear projects. Analysis of the economics of nuclear power must take into account who bears the risks of future uncertainties. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond.