Nonrenewable Sources of Energy – What are they?


Nonrenewable sources of energy are the ones that have a pre-existing finite amount of ‘fuel’, and by “fuel” is meant any kind of substance that is storing energy. Natural gas, gasoline, uranium, kerosene, and firewood, all these substances are ‘fuel’ examples. And of these ‘fuels’, firewood is the only renewable is this listing. Here are the most common nonrenewable fuels:

Fossil Fuels: Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – These fossil are what is left over from animals and plants that were living several millions of years before us. This is why they are called ‘fossil’.  All these fuels are ‘carbon-based’ meaning they are consisting mainly of elements that contain carbon and hydrogen coming from these ancient animals and plants’ bodies. Oil is a fossil fuel in liquid form (where each molecule contains several carbon atoms), natural gas is fossil fuel in gaseous form (where each small molecule contains just 1 or 2 carbon atoms), and coal is fossil fuel in solid form (each molecule contains many carbon atoms).

coal-miningThese fossil fuels are called nonrenewable though they are actually forms solar energy that is stored, as their energy initially was furnished by the sun via photosynthesis. They are seen as nonrenewable, though, because their quantity is finite. It is not possible to replaced these fuels quickly as it took so many years to create them, unlike what we call renewable sources. So nature will need too long for these nonrenewable fuel to recreate, or ‘renew’ them for all of the world’s practical uses and purposes.

Nonrenewable fuels are actually so finite, that it is generally recognized that the quantity of oil reserved may be sufficient for maybe the first few decades (see also the renown ‘Hubbard Curve’), while nature’s reserves of natural gas and coal may last just a couple of hundred years if we keep on using them at the same rate as we do currently. There are additionally important environmental reasons not to use these fossil fuels, but we’ll come back to that later.

Nuclear Power: In a nuclear power plant, heat is generated that will drive steam turbines for the production of electricity. These nuclear reactions involve radioactive materials, for example uranium 235, a so-called ‘isotope’ of the uranium element.  We know 2  different kinds methods to generate nuclear power, Fission and Fusion. At these processes, an atom’s nucleus gains a proton (fusion) or loses a proton (fission). Consequently, these atoms transform into a different kind of atom, and at both processes, a lot of energy is released.

Fission: At Fission, radioactive elements are split apart to release huge amounts of energy. At the moment, there are worldwide some 1150 nuclear power plants that use the method of fission. Around 450 of these ‘reactors’ are used for the production of electricity, and the remaining reactors are used for research purposes or for the production of specific radioactive materials that are used in medicine or food processing, or for scientific research purposes.

Fusion: In the process of Fusion, radioactive elements, in general hydrogen nuclei, are combined which will also release huge amounts of energy. Actually, this is the way the Sun’s energy is generated. Today, we haven’t come to the point that we can build successful or commercially viable fusion reactors, but there is a lot of research going on.

Nuclear power cannot be classified as ‘renewable energy’ partly because there’s just a limited, or finite, uranium 235 reserve, and nature does not have the capacity to renew this for us. On the other hand is the available quantity of uranium considerable. Many scientists won’t classify this kind of energy as renewable due to the associated environmental and social problems, and we’ll get also back to this further on.  Most people are considering the process of Fusion to be fundamentally cleaner and safer the Fission method, and they are hoping that scientists and researchers soon will be successful in developing Fusion as a reliable and viable source of energy. The feedstock for Fusion fuel is abundantly present on Earth: WATER. More resources click here.