According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (2006), there are three (3) areas from which the environmental debates in the field of Electrical Engineering are concerned: (1) the electricity generation process, (2) the discarding of the "resultant waste products", and (3) energy conservation potentials. (p.2) The IET (2006) reports that the total consumption of energy in the United Kingdom (including fuels for electricity) increased from 207 million tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1992 to 229 Mtoe in 1998. From the total figure, 80 million tonnes oil equivalent is used to generate electricity in UK. Charts 1 and 2 show the relative amounts of different fuels (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, and net electric imports) used in making electricity. Based from the data illustrated on the two charts, coal consumption decreased from 60 percent to 33 percent in the time duration. The usage of gas increased from 3 percent to 32.5 percent in the same time frame. Nuclear energy remains a major contributor of electricity in U.K. providing 1/5 of the total electricity. (Postnote, 2007) The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (2008) provides updated statistics for fuel used to generate electricity in UK. ...
Chart 1 Chart 2
III. ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS
Fossil-Fuelled Power Plants
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (2006) mentions different stages in the conversion of fossil fuels into energy that produce unpleasant effects in the environment: (1) extraction and transportation, (2) processing, (3) combustion, and (4) disposal of wastes and residues. The main problem with the burning of fossil fuels as highlighted by Institution of Engineering and Technology (2006) is the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission resulting to global warming. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere a scenario also known as the greenhouse effect. According to Postnote (2007), "electricity generation accounts for the 30 percent of CO2 emissions in UK." (p.1) Another effect of burning fossil fuels is the occurrence of acid rains which destroys plantations and also man-made infrastructures. Fossil fuels also contain toxic radioactive elements like arsenic, lead, and mercury. Wastes like ashes which are dumped into the seas contribute to the destruction of the marine ecosystem. (Institution of Engineering and Technology, 2006)
Nuclear Power Stations
Nuclear Power is regarded to be more efficient than fossil fuels in terms of energy generated per tonne. Institution of Engineering and Technology (2006) reports that the energy generated from one tonne of uranium is equivalent to 15 thousand tonnes of fossil fuels. This may benefit the environment by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions. However, the author notes that the effects of radiation, and nuclear waste disposal accompanied by problems of "decommissioning nuclear power stations" and radioactive contaminations pose another threat in the