Non-renewable Resources: These are minerals that have been formed in the lithosphere over millions of years and constitute a closed system. These non-renewable resources, once used, remain on earth in a different form and, unless recycled, become waste material. Non-renewable resources include fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which if extracted at the present rate, will soon be totally used up.
So, a non-renewable resource (also called a finite resource) is a resource that does not renew itself at a sufficient rate for sustainable economic extraction in meaningful human time-frames. An example is carbon-based, organically-derived fuel. The original organic material, with the aid of heat and pressure, becomes a fuel such as oil or gas. Earth minerals and metal ores, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) and groundwater in certain aquifers are all non-renewable resources.
Earth Minerals and Metal Ores:
Earth minerals and metal ores are other examples of non-renewable resources. The metals themselves are present in vast amounts in Earth crust, and their extraction by humans only occurs where they are concentrated by natural geological processes (such as heat, pressure, organic activity, weathering and other processes) enough to become economically viable to extract. These processes generally take from tens of thousands to millions of years, through plate tectonics, tectonic subsidence and crustal recycling.
Natural resources such as coal, petroleum (crude oil) and natural gas take thousands of years to form naturally and cannot be replaced as fast as they are being consumed. Eventually it is considered that fossil-based resources will become too costly to harvest and humanity will need to shift its reliance to other sources of energy. These resources are yet to be named.
At present, the main energy source used by humans is non-renewable fossil fuels. Since the dawn of internal combustion engine technologies in the 17th century, petroleum and other fossil fuels have remained in continual demand. As a result, conventional infrastructure and transport systems, which are fitted to combustion engines, remain prominent throughout the globe. The continual use of fossil fuels at the current rate is believed to increase global warming and cause more severe climate change.
In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) an organization set up by United Nations but independent from the United Nations classified fission reactors that produce more fissile nuclear fuel than they consume -i.e. breeder reactors, and when it is developed, fusion power, among conventional renewable energy sources, such as solar and falling water.
The use of nuclear technology relying on fission requires naturally occurring radioactive material as fuel. Uranium, the most common fission fuel, and is present in the ground at relatively low concentrations and mined in nineteen countries. This mined uranium is used to fuel energy-generating nuclear reactors with fissionable uranium-235 which produce heat that is ultimately used to power turbines to produce electricity.
Nuclear power provides about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity. Nuclear energy production is associated with potentially dangerous radioactive contamination as it relies upon unstable elements. In particular, nuclear power facilities produce about 200,000 metric tons of low and intermediate level waste (LILW) and 10,000 metric tons of high level waste (HLW) (including spent fuel designated as waste) each year worldwide.
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