Energy, waste and the environment – a geochemical perspective: introduction
Energy has played a key role in the development of civilizations around the globe. Since prehistoric times, Man has depended on energy sources for heating and cooking purposes. The main energy source at that time was wood, and wood burning continues to be of utmost importance in certain parts of the world. The need to secure energy sources has a direct interaction with the environment. Throughout history, this interaction has been detrimental to the environment, as documented, for example, by early deforestation in the Mediterranean area, where the growth of civilizations was linked to deforestation (Thirgood 1981). Today, the environmental impact resulting from energy production and consumption is more visible and more pronounced than ever before, as Man tries to satisfy an ever-growing energy demand. In the year 2001, the total world consumption of primary energy amounted to ∼426 billion GJ (EIA 2003), an increase of more than 15% compared to 1992. By assuming a world population of 6.1 billion people in 2001, the per capita energy consumption is approximately 70 GJ. This figure, however, represents a global average only, and pronounced differences exist for various regions. Figure 1 demonstrates, for example, that in North America the per capita consumption of primary energy is four times greater than the global average, and nearly twice that of Western Europe. On the other hand, the per capita consumption in Africa is merely a third of the global average. This extreme geographical disparity in energy consumption is mirrored by the data for CO2
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This book provides incentives for further development of sustainable fuel cycles through a novel and interdisciplinary approach to an Earth science-related topic. The main focus is on geochemical concepts in immobilizing, isolating or neutralizing waste derived from energy production and consumption. The book also addresses the issue of using some types of energy-derived waste as alternative raw materials. Moreover, it highlights research on how certain wastes can be used for energy production, an increasingly important aspect of modern integrated waste management strategies. The main objectives are to: (a) identify the most serious environmental problems related to various types of power generation and associated waste accumulation; (b) present strategies, based on natural analogue materials, for the immobilization of toxic and radioactive waste components through mineralogical barriers; (c) discuss modern procedures for reuse of waste or certain waste components; and (d) review the importance of geochemical modelling in describing and predicting the interaction between waste and the environment.