Difference Between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy (With Table)

In simple scientific terms ‘energy’ is defined as the ability to do work. Whatever trivial work one is doing, requires some form of energy. It is known that “energy can neither be created nor destroyed”. But it can be used to generate electricity. Coal energy and Nuclear Energy are examples of two of these processes.

Coal Energy vs Nuclear Energy

The main difference between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy is that they use different sources and elements to generate energy. The former makes the use of coal, a fossil fuel, to produce heat. Whereas, the latter uses Uranium, a radioactive element, to produce heat. The process and method of generating energy are different as well, largely because of the disparity in their nature.

Coal energy is widely known to generate electrical power in various countries. The underlying element is coal, a fossil fuel, that takes millions of years to form. The types of coal used for this purpose are bituminous, subbituminous, or lignite. It is a non-renewable source of energy and may not be the cleanest way to generate electricity.

Nuclear energy is the energy that is stored within the nucleus of an atom. Just like coal energy, this is used to generate electricity. It employs radioactive elements for this process, uranium, being one of the most common elements. Nuclear energy is considered to be a renewable source of energy.

Comparison Table Between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy

Parameters of ComparisonCoal EnergyNuclear Energy
Underlying elementThe underlying element used is coal.The underlying element used is Uranium.
Energy densityIt has an energy density of 24 MJ/kg.It has an energy density of 39,00,000 MJ/kg.
Renewable/Non-renewableIt is a non-renewable source of energy.It is a renewable source of energy.
Cost of productionThe cost is comparatively less due to the low value of coal.The cost is more due to the higher value of Uranium-235.
UsageThis type of energy is widely used.It has a comparatively low usage due to its high cost.

What is Coal Energy?

Coal energy is a form of electricity generation technique that is widely used in today’s world. The fossil fuel, coal, is a cheap resource which makes its use more justifiable. Coal as an energy-generating medium has been used since the 1880s.

In this process, coal is primarily pulverized to fine particles to make the burning process easier. In Pulverized Coal Combustion (PCC) chambers this is made to burn at relatively high temperatures. The heat produced in this step converts water into vapor or steam.

This steam is made to rotate turbine blades at high speed which is again connected to a generator. These rapid rotations aid in the process of electricity generation. In other words, the energy from burnt coal helps to produce electricity.

This energy produced is non-renewable energy as the element itself takes millions of years for its formation. So, its cautious use has to be guaranteed. Studies show that in the United States, coal is used as a major source of electricity production.

It is not considered to be a clean method. The combustion of coal leads to the emergence of various carbon gases. Therefore, innovative techniques of electricity production are being researched to replace this particular type.

What is Nuclear Energy?

In recent years, nuclear energy has been commercially used on a large scale. It harvests energy from the nucleus of an atom. A process called ‘Nuclear Fission’ is used for this purpose.

The use of nuclear energy as a source of electricity generation was first brought to attention in the 1950s. Studies have shown that there are around 440 nuclear plants worldwide producing 10% of the world’s electricity.

The process of nuclear fission results in an atomic divide which produces a huge amount of heat and energy. They get engaged in a cycle called the nuclear chain reaction. In nuclear power plants, this energy is made to heat cooling agents that produce steam.

After this, the process is the same as that in energy production using coal. The steam is made to pass through turbines that create electricity. This method is comparatively a modern method that is being implemented worldwide.

The most interesting point is that it is considered to be both a renewable as well as a non-renewable source of energy. The energy itself is renewable, but the fuel used in this process may expire with time. The energy produced is clean energy as it does not lead to the emission of either carbon or greenhouse gases.

Main Differences Between Coal Energy and Nuclear Energy

  1. The basic difference lies in the use of the fundamental elements. Coal energy uses fossil fuel, coal. And nuclear energy uses a radioactive element, Uranium (U-235 to be more specific).
  2. The energy density varies greatly. A small pellet of uranium contains the same energy as one ton of coal.
  3. The cost of generating nuclear energy is much greater than that of coal energy as coal is much cheaper than uranium.
  4. The energy produced through nuclear fission is cleaner than coal energy. It does not emit greenhouse gases whereas burning coal produces harmful carbon gases.
  5. Coal energy is a non-renewable source of energy. On the other hand, nuclear energy is a renewable source.
  6. The usage of coal energy as an electricity generation process is much more in use than nuclear energy. This is because coal is found in abundance.


The need for energy increases at a constant rate. The monopoly of electricity that is dominating the market has resulted in a surge in its prices. As a result, alternative sources of electricity generation have become more crucial now. Coal and nuclear energy are very good examples of these alternatives.

Uranium is a radioactive element. Hence, proper precautions should be implemented while handling such elements. Even the disposal of the wastes has to be regularly monitored.

Nuclear energy is not only cleaner but it can produce huge amounts of energy as compared to coal energy. Therefore, the need to shift to nuclear energy from coal energy is essential.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0360128595000070
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=v607AgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=nuclear+energy&ots=V5nHTOAQYm&sig=dt7YmVwDBhkQvb6yMPp0UZ2U1qA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false