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Differences Between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy

Coal Energy vs Nuclear Energy

The world’s demand for energy is ever growing, and this trend won’t change in the coming years. As oil prices go higher, the search for alternative sources of energy intensifies. Two popular options are coal energy and nuclear energy. The main difference between coal energy and nuclear energy is the type of fuel they use. Nuclear energy uses enriched radioactive elements like uranium to produce heat in a process called nuclear fission. This process needs to be carefully monitored in order to prevent the excessive production of heat and consequent plant meltdown. In contrast, coal energy uses coal, a fossil fuel that is burned to produce heat.

Because of radioactivity, nuclear power plants need to have a lot of safety precautions in order to safeguard their workers as well as the general public from radiation while it is being transported. Even the spent fuel rods need to be placed into a special disposal facility, and it may take centuries for the radiation to go down to safe levels. Any nuclear fuel also needs to be safeguarded as terrorists may use it for dirty bombs.

Another major difference between coal energy and nuclear energy is the energy density. A small uranium pellet, that’s slightly bigger than a pencil eraser, could contain as much energy as a ton of coal. Contrasting between coal and nuclear energy, a coal power plant needs to have trucks delivering coal to it on a daily basis while a nuclear power plant may have its fuel changed every two years. This results in less pollution due to the transportation of fuel.

Nuclear energy is also cleaner because it does not pollute the air as it operates. The burning of coal releases carbon gases into the atmosphere in huge volumes. In a nuclear power plant, the smoke coming out of its tower is just water vapor.

Although nuclear energy is better than coal energy, the latter is still in wide use due large to its cheap price. This is because coal is still rather abundant in the Earth’s crust. As the resource gets used up, we will see a corresponding increase in price just like what’s happening with oil right now.

Coal is a very old energy source that is very dirty. Nuclear energy is a very attractive alternative since it is viewed to be sustainable. The technology just needs to be perfected and multiple safety measures put in place in order to safeguard the public from the radiation.


  1. Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste while coal energy does not.
  2. Nuclear energy requires more safety precautions than coal energy.
  3. Nuclear energy requires much less materials than coal energy.
  4. Nuclear energy does not produce air pollution like coal energy.
  5. Nuclear energy is more expensive than coal energy.

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