Primitive people started using fire in order to prepare food from the animals they got from hunting, to make their bodies warm when it was cold, to light up the dark night, and to protect themselves from wild animals. As agriculture and stock-farming became a way of life, primitive man added to their own physical power by using natural energy utilizing power from livestock, such as cows or horses, and power from nature, such as water or wind.
In the 18th century, as people started to use coal, the steam engine was invented ushering in the period known as the industrial revolution. People started to enjoy the benefits of a mechanical civilization powered by energy. Coal energy soon followed, and the utilization of petroleum and natural gas started the development of the manufacturing industry and transportation. Advancements in scientific technology expanded the range of electric power utilization and eventually made the utilization of nuclear energy possible.
Consequently, today’s life has become more affluent with the progress of civilization and the role of energy has grown in order to maintain and develop our peaceful and settled society.
It has only been about a hundred years since civilization started using electricity; however, the use of electricity has rapidly increased as modernization has been stimulated to the point of it becoming an essential part of daily life. So much so, that many cannot manage life without electricity.
In 1961, the annual electric consumption in Korea was 1.1 billion KWh. It increased, however, to 32.7 billion KWh in 1980 and again in 1991, to 104.4 billion KWh. When the annual electric consumption in 1991 is compared to the use in 1980, residential electric consumption, which was 6.8% of total consumption in 1980, increased to 18.7% in 1991. Public service electric consumption also increased from 5.7% to 18.9%, whereas industrial electric consumption decreased sharply from 87.5% to 62.4%, proving that residential and public service electric consumption is increasing relatively.
At the same time, this indicates that electric consumption is increasing in unproductive parts of consumption and requires an awakening of the nation. Electricity is convenient and clean energy, but at the same time, it is also expensive. Therefore, we have to try to save and efficiently use such valuable energy.
Ever since U.S. president Eisenhower proclaimed peaceful use of nuclear energy at the UN general assembly on December 8, 1953, however, developed countries have made a great contribution to prosperity and development of the world by devoting research and development to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The peaceful use of nuclear energy that each country is currently carrying forward can be, in large, divided into two types: use of thermal energy and use of radiation and RI.
The use of thermal energy includes nuclear power generation that produces electricity using heat generated from a nuclear reactor, a nuclear ship that produces power-driven heat from a nuclear reactor, nuclear steelmaking, district heating, and the direct use of heat for the demineralization of seawater.
The use of radiation and RI is increasing as artificial radioactive substances are produced in large quantities and cheap prices with development of nuclear reactor and a study of particle accelerator that generates powerful radiation has been advanced. Radiation and RI are widely utilized in fields of medical science, agriculture, and the manufacturing industry, such as diagnosis and treatment of disease and improvement of a species of crop, sterilization, food preservation, non-destructive inspection of industrial goods.
The use of nuclear energy is getting developed widely as stated above; however, problems such as nuclear waste disposal and safety issues also require our consideration. These problems have surely been greatly improved now that we are using nuclear power without big problems, but they are still considered the subject of study, along with the demand for clean energy.
The future trend for transition of energy will be new regeneration energy. As stated above, nuclear energy requires nuclear waste and safety to be taken into consideration. Fossil energy has almost been exhausted and we cannot avoid the challenge to the environment. If a country depends on imports for more than 90% like Korea, it needs to develop and utilize alternative energy. Simultaneously, high-efficient utilization of technology for fossil energy must be developed in order to pursue safe energy without contaminating the environment in the long run.