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AP Environmental Unit 4 Vocabulary

Vocabulary From Chapters 11, 12, and 13.


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In coal mining, huge shovel that takes enormous chunks out of a mountain to reach underground coal seams.
A method of safely storing high-level radioactive liquid wastes in solid form, as enormous glass logs.
The dismantling of an old nuclear power plant after it closes.
Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Cells
A wafer or thin-film device that generates electricity when solar energy is absorbed.
Subsurface Mining
The extraction of mineral and energy resources from deep underground deposits.
Fuel Cell
An electrochemical cell similar to a battery in which reactants (hydrogen and oxygen) are supplied from external reservoirs; when hydrogen and oxygen react, water forms and energy is produced as an electrical current.
A colorless, flammable liquid, C2H5OH.
Containment Building
A safety feature of nuclear power plants that provides an additional line of defense against any accidental leak of radiation.
A nuclear reaction in which two smaller atoms are combined to make one larger atom with the release of a large amount of energy.
Atomic Mass
A number that represents the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. Represents the mass of an atom.
Wind Energy
Harnessing surface air currents caused by the solar warming of air to generate electricity.
A thick, yellow to black, flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture found in Earth's crust.
Solar Thermal Electric Generation
A means of producing electricity in which the sun's energy is concentrated by mirrors or lenses onto a fluid-filled pipe; the heated fluid is used to generate electricity.
Radioactive Decay
The process in which a radioactive element emits radiation and, as a result, its nucleus changes into the nucleus of a different element.
Removal of salt from ocean or brackish (somewhat salty) water.
Energy Intensity
A statistical estimate of energy efficiency, as for example, a country's or region's total energy consumption divided by its gross natural product.
Passive Solar Heating
A system that uses the sun's energy without requiring mechanical devices (pumps or fans) to distribute the collected heat.
Coal Gasification
The technique of producing a synthetic gaseous fuel (such as methane) from solid coal.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
A mixture of liquefied propane and butane. Stored in pressurized tanks.
Wind Farm
An array of wind turbines for utilizing wind energy by capturing it and converting electricity.
Infrared Radiation
Electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light but shorter than microwaves. Humans perceive it as invisible waves of heat energy.
The emission of fast-moving particles or rays of energy from the nuclei of radioactive atoms.
A nuclear reaction in which large atoms of certain elements are each split into two smaller atoms with the release of a large amount of energy.
Bituminous Coal
The most common form of coal; produces a high amount of heat and is used extensively by electric power plants.
Fluidized-Bed Combustion
A clean-coal technology in which crushed coal is mixed with particles of limestone in a strong air current during combustion; the limestone neutralizes the acidic sulfur compounds produced during combustion.
The enrichment of a lake, estuary, or slow flowing stream by nutrients that cause increased photosynthetic productivity. Occurs naturally as a very slow process in which the body of water gradually fills in and converts to a marsh, eventually disappearing.
Methane Hydrates
Reserves of ice-encrusted natural gas located in porous rock in the artic tundra (under the permafrost) and in the deep ocean sediments of the continental slope and ocean floor.
The simplest hydrocarbon, CH4, which is an odorless, colorless, flammable gas.
Coal Liquefaction
The process by which solid coal is used to produce a synthetic liquid fuel similar to oil.
An isotope of hydrogen that contains one proton and two neutrons per atom.
A form of government support (such as monetary payments, public financing, tax benefits, or tax exemptions) given to a business or institution to promote the activity performed by that group.
High-Level Radioactive Wastes
Any radioactive solid, liquid, or gas that initially gives off large amounts of ionizing radiation.
Oil Shales
Sedimentary 'oily rocks' that contain a mixture of hydrocarbons known as kerogen.
Active Solar Heating
A system in which a series of collection devices mounted on a roof or in a field are used to absorb solar energy. Pumps or fans distribute the collected heat.
Acid Mine Drainage
Pollution caused when sulfuric acid and dangerous dissolved materials such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium wash from coal and metal mines into nearby lakes and streams.
The energy of flowing or falling water; used to generate electricity.
A grade of coal that is brown-black and has a soft, woody texture (softer than bituminous coal).
A diverse group of organic compounds that contain only hydrogen and carbon.
An alternate form of the same element that has a different atomic mass. That is, it has a different number of neutrons but the same number of protons and electrons.
Subbituminous Coal
A grade of coal, intermediate between lignite and bituminous, that has a relatively low heat value and sulfur content.
Reactor Vessel
A huge steel potlike structure encasing the uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. It is a safety feature designed to prevent the accidental release of radiation into the environment.
Spoil Bank
A hill of loose rock created when the overburden from a new trench is put into the old (already excavated) trench during strip mining.
Radioactive Half-Life
The period of time require for one-half of a radioactive substance to change into a different material.
Surface Mining
The extraction of mineral and energy resources near Earth's surface by first removing the soil, subsoil, and overlying rock strata.
A black combustible solid found in earth's crust; formed from the remains of ancient plants that lived millions of years ago and used as fuel.
Atomic Number
A number that represents the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom. Each element has its own characteristic number.
Cooling Tower
Part of an electric power generating plant within which heated water is cooled.
A thick, yellow to black, flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture found in earth's crust.
Hydrothermal Reservoir
Large underground reservoirs of hotwater and possibly also steam; some of the hot water may escape to the surface, creating hot springs or geysers.
Breeder Nuclear Fission
A type of nuclear fission in which nonfissionable U-238 is converted to fissionable P-239.
A liquid or gaseous fuel synthesized from coal or other naturally occurring sources and used in place of oil or natural gas.
An isotope of hydrogen that contains one proton and one neutron per atom.
Low-Level Radioactive Wastes
Any radioactive solid, liquid, or gas that gives off small amounts of ionizing radiation.
Ocean Temperature Gradients
The difference in temperature at various ocean depths.
Tar Sands
An underground sand deposit permeated with a thick, asphalt-like oil known as bitumen. The bitumen can be separated from the sand by heating.
A clean fuel, usually composed of a mixture of gasses, whose combustion produces fewer pollutants than either coal or biomass. Produced from the anaerobic digestion of organic materials.
An option after the closing of an old nuclear power plant in which the entire power plant is permanently encased in concrete.
Geothermal Energy
The natural heat within Earth that arises within Earth's core, from friction where continental plates slide over another, and from decay of radioactive elements; can be used for space heating and to generate electricity.
An unstable isotope that spontaneously emits radiation.
An ionized gas formed at very high temperatures when electrons are stripped from the gas atoms; formed during fusion reactions.
Natural Gas
A mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons (primarily methane) that occurs, often with oil deposits in Earth's crust.
Layers of rock.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
An emergency supply of up to one billion barrels of oil that is stored in underground salt caverns along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, as mandated by the U.S. Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
The melting of a nuclear reactor vessel. Would cause the release of a substantial amount of radiation into the environment.
(1) The process by which uranium ore is refined after mining to increase the concentration of fissionable U-235. (2) The fertilization of a body of water, caused by the presence of high levels of plant and algal nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Energy Efficiency
Using less energy to accomplish the same task. Purchasing an appliance such as a refrigerator that uses less energy to keep food cold is an example.
The highest grade of coal; has the highest heat content and burns the cleanest of any grade of coal.
Chemicals, obtained from crude oil, that are used in the production of such diverse products as fertilizers, plastics, paints, pesticides, medicines, and synthetic fibers.
Biogas Digesters
A vat that uses bacteria to break down household wastes, including sewage. The gas produced by the bacteria can be burned as a fuel.
Strip Mining
A type of surface mining in which a trench is dug to extract the minerals, then a new trench is dug parallel to the old one; the overburden from the new trench is put into the old trench, creating a hill of loose rock known as a spoil bank.
Desulfurization systems that are used in smokestacks to decrease the amount of sulfur released in the air by 90% or more.
Tidal Energy
A form of renewable energy that relies on the ebb and flow of the tides to generate electricity.
Spent Fuel
The used fuel elements that were irradiated in a nuclear reactor.
An energy technology that involves recycling 'waste' heat so that two useful forms of energy (electricity and either steam or hot water) are produced from the same fuel.
Gas Hydrates
Reserves of ice-encrusted natural gas located in porous rock in the artic tundra (under the permafrost) and in the deep ocean sediments of the continental slope and ocean floor.
Nuclear Fuel Cycle
The process involved in producing the fuel used in and disposing of radioactive wastes (also called nuclear wastes).
Nuclear Reactor
A device that initiates and maintains a controlled nuclear fission chain reaction to produce energy (electricity).
Energy Conservation
Saving energy by reducing energy use and waste. Carpooling to work or school is an example.
Demand-Side Management
A way that electric utilities can meet future power needs by helping consumers conserve energy and increase efficiency. Consumers save money because they do not have to build new power plants or purchase additional power.
Structural Trap
An underground geological structure that tends to trap oil or natural gas if it is present.
Resource Recovery
The process of removing any material-sulfur or metals, for example-from polluted emissions or solid waste and selling it as a marketable product.

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