Much human activity has an effect on the environment and, as already outlined, power generation is no exception. Some of these effects are more serious than others. The atmospheric pollution resulting from coal, oil, and gas combustion has had obvious effects. But combustion of fossil fuel also releases a significant amount of heat into the environment, mostly as a result of the inefficiency of the energy conversion process. Is this a serious side effect? In most cases, it probably is not.

Power stations have a physical presence in the environment. Some people will consider this a visual intrusion. Most make noises, another source of irritation. There are electromagnetic fields associated with the passage of alternating currents through power cables. A power plant needs maintaining, servicing, and often to be provided with fuel, which will generate road or rail traffic. All of these factors will have an impact on people living within the vicinity of a facility even if they do not affect a wider area.

Clearly, some of these effects are more far-reaching than others. Even if they are not far-reaching, the local effects of a power station may be a significant issue for a population that lives immediately adjacent to the facility. Deciding what weight must be given to such considerations when planning future generating capacity can be a fearsomely difficult issue. It is the big issues, however, particularly global warming, that will have the most significant effect on the future of power generation.

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