absolute zero: 0 Kelvin (-273o C); the temperature at which all molecular movement ceases.

active solar: energy generated by a photovoltaic cell.

alpha particle: helium nucleus emitted from a heavy radioactive element.

anthracite coal: coal with 90% carbon, very high heating value and very low impurities.

atomic number: the number of protons in the nucleus.

atomic mass: the sum of the protons and neutrons in the nucleus.

atomic mass unit (amu): the weight of one proton or neutron.

background radiation: naturally occurring (i.e. non-enriched) radiation in the world around us to which humans are exposed constantly, including radiation from the sun, bricks, the earth, and naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in food.

beta particle: a negatively charged electron emitted during a nuclear reaction.

binding energy: energy contained in holding the protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom or holding the atoms together in a molecule.

biomass: organic material such as wood, grain, etc. that is a source of renewable energy.

bituminous coal: the most abundant type of coal, which has a high heating value and usually a high sulfur content. Illinois coal is bituminous coal.

breeder reactor: a nuclear reactor in which a fissile fuel is produced from a non-fissile fuel by absorption of a fast neutron.

British thermal unit (BTU): energy required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

boiling water reactor (BWR): nuclear reactor in which the water that moderates and cools the reactor also is used to drive the turbines.

calorie: the amount of heat needed to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

chemical energy: energy stored on the chemical bonds of molecules.

coal: a fossil fuel comprised primarily of carbon formed by the decomposition of plant matter in non-marine environments billions of years ago; a fossil fuel.

coal gasification: process by which coal is converted into synthetic natural gas.

coal liquefaction: the process of converting coal into syncrude, or synthetic crude oil.

containment structure: reinforced enclosure around a nuclear reactor designed to keep all the radioactivity inside and filter it out of the inside atmosphere in the event of an accident; they are tested for susceptibility to tornadoes, earthquakes, airplanes flying into them (really), and explosives.

control rod: rods of cadmium or boron which can be placed in or removed from the core of a nuclear reactor to control the number of neutrons causing a chain reaction by absorbing neutrons.

control system: heat regulation devices in passive solar systems such as insulation, fans, and vents.

crude oil: the form in which oil is initially extracted which is a mixture of hydrocarbons with some oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur impurities; a fossil fuel.

deep mining: coal mining in which shafts and tunnels are used to extract coal from a seam.

diffuse radiation: solar radiation which can not be focused easily because it passes through cloudy skies.

electrical energy: the energy associated with movement of electrons through a wire or circuit.

electromagnetic radiation: radiation that is emitted in the form of photons, i.e. light.

endothermic: a reaction that takes heat in from the environment, that is, heat is absorbed by the system.

energy: the ability to do work. The source of energy is the rearrangement of chemical and nuclear bonds into a more stable state.

energy efficiency: the amount of energy extracted from a system divided by the amount of energy put into the system in order to recover the energy.

enrichment: the process by which the amount of uranium-235 in a mixture of uranium isotopes is increased from 7% to 2-3%.

exothermic: a chemical reaction which gives off heat to the environment, that is, heat is released from the system.

first law of thermodynamics: the total amount of energy and mass in the universe is constant; energy and mass can be neither created nor destroyed.

fissile material: nuclei that undergoes fission when a neutron is absorbed.

fission: bombarding a radioactive isotope with a neutron in order to split the nucleus into smaller parts, releasing energy.

fission products: isotopes produced when fissile material is split after colliding with a neutron.

flow: the total amount of water moving in a hydropower system per unit time.

fossil fuels: general term referring to fuels that have been generated by "fossilized" plant and animal matter over millions of years, i.e. coal, oil, and natural gas.

fractional distillation: method by which crude petroleum is refined into usable products.

fusion: the process of bringing two light nuclei together to form a heavier nucleus, thereby releasing energy from the loss of mass.

gamma particle: a high-energy electromagnetic photon released during radioactive decay.

gasohol: fuel made by distilling grain, wood, or other plant products into ethyl alcohol and mixing the alcohol with gasoline.

generator: a device consisting of a magnet and a coil of wire that changes the mechanical energy of the turbine into electrical energy.

geothermal energy: energy from the inner core of the earth; specifically from hot, molten rock pushing through to near the surface of the earth heating the water.

greenhouse effect: phenomenon in which oxides of nitrogen and carbon trap the energy radiated from the earth.

greenhouse gases: oxides of nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon as well as CFC compounds which absorb infrared radiation from the earth, causing global warming.

head: term used to describe the height of falling water in a hydropower system.

heat: movement of molecules or atoms.

heat of formation: a measure of the binding energy of a molecule, set such that the heat of formation of O2 is 0 kcal/mol.

heating value: a measure of the useful energy content of different fuels.

high-level radioactive waste: fission products of a nuclear reaction.

hydropower: energy from flowing water used for mechanical purposes or for electricity production.

insulation: process in which a material slows heat loss or gain.

isotope: nuclei of the same element that have the same atomic number but different atomic mass and neutrons.

joule: one Newton-meter; a unit of work equivalent to 0.239 calories.

kinetic energy: energy of motion, (1/2)mv2.

lignite: "young" coal with high water content, low heating values, and typically many impurities

low-level radioactive waste: other waste products which result from working with radioactivity, such as gloves, mops, and filters.

mechanical energy: energy that can be used directly to do work, either potential or kinetic.

meltdown: a possible situation that may occur when a nuclear reactor core gets so hot (accidentally) that the fuel rods melt and release the radioactive fission products trapped inside.

methanogens: methane-producing bacteria.

MBPD: million barrels of oil per day.

moderator: substance used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so that they can split a nucleus more easily.

multiple barrier containment system: a method of containing high-level radioactive waste in several layers, or barriers, to protect the environment. These include agents to absorb any incident ground water.

natural gas: methane with ~1% other light hydrocarbons; a fossil fuel.

neutron: a nuclear particle with a charge of zero and a mass number of one amu.

nuclear bombardment: hitting a nucleus with subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, or alpha particles.

nuclear energy: the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom which can be released upon fission.

nuclear waste: radioactive active waste resulting from the byproducts of nuclear reactions.

nucleus: the center of the atom where most of the mass is located in the form of protons and neutrons.

oil: a mixture of hydrocarbons formed by the deposition of dead plant, animal, and marine microorganism matter in or near marine sedentary basins.

oil shale: sedimentary rock containing solid organic material that can be converted to crude oil which is called shale oil.

OPEC: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

passive solar heating: using a material to collect and store thermal energy from the sun.

photon: a massless particle of electromagnetic energy (light).

photosynthesis: the production of glucose in a plant from water and carbon dioxide using solar radiation.

pH: a measure of how acidic or basic a substance is by the amount of H+ ions are in solution.

positron: a positive electron emitted from the nucleus during a nuclear reaction.

positron emission: a type of radioactive decay due to the emission of a positive electron.

potential energy: stored energy in a system which is a function of position or chemicalbonds.

Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR): a nuclear power reactor in which the cooling water is kept under high pressure and not allowed to boil until the water passes into the turbine units.

primary oil recovery: a method of oil recovery whereby the oil flows from the well by its own pressure or is pumped out. This method recovers about 30% of the oil in the well.

proton bombardment: the bombardment of a nucleus with a proton in order to effect nuclear decay.

QUAD: an amount of energy equal to 1015 BTU.

radiant energy: energy coming to earth from the sun.

radioactive: an unstable nuclei which will decay to a different nuclei and emit radioactivity (an alpha, beta, or gamma) in the process.

rem: a unit of nuclear radiation (dose) equivalent, (radiation equivalent for mammals). An average person is exposed to 300 mrem/year.

renewable resource: an energy resource in the environment which can be renewed if proper care is taken. Examples include hydropower, wind power, biomass, solar power, and geothermal energy.

reserve: the amount of a resource that is recoverable.

reservoirs: large deposits of natural gas.

second law of thermodynamics: the disorder in the universe always increases.

secondary oil recovery: method of oil recovery whereby the well is flooded with high-pressure water or gas, such as CO2 to push the oil out. Recovers about 10% of the oil in the well after primary recovery.

short ton: 2,000 lbs of coal, which can provide about 26 x 106 BTU.

smog: smoky fog that hangs in the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels with impurities, which can originate from the exhaust pipe of your car.

solar pond: a large pond with a salt gradient which traps heat from the sun and may be used to directly heat buildings.

subbituminous coal: coal with 40% carbon and less sulfur than lignite.

surface mining: type of coal mining (also called strip mining) in which layers of land are removed, leaving an open "pit."

syncrude: synthetic crude oil.

temperature: the average speed of all the molecules within a certain area.

tertiary oil recovery: method of oil recovery in which the oil is heated by burning it underground, adding steam, or adding a detergent to scrub it out. Typically recovers only an additional 10% of the oil in the well after primary and secondary recovery.

THERM: a measure of heat energy equal to 100,000 BTU.

thermal mass: a heat storage material, such as water or masonry, used in passive solar heating systems, which radiates heat to the surroundings after the sun goes down.

thermal energy: energy in the form of heat.

thermal neutrons: neutrons in a reactor that have the necessary energy (1/40 of an electron volt) needed to induce fission.

thermodynamics: study of energy relationships involving, heat, mechanics, work, and other aspects of energy and energy transfer.

third law of thermodynamics: all molecular movement stops at absolute zero.

transmutation: radioactive decay induced by particle bombardment.

waste heat: an unusable form of energy which inevitably results from energy transformation.

wind power: energy from the moving air which turns large windmills for electricity generation.

work: a force applied to an object over a certain distance.

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