Monday, November 17, 2014

Global Production of Nuclear Energy

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As I mentioned in Saturday's post, this coming Thursday, Hofstra will host a debate as to whether or not nuclear energy should be expanded to create a more sustainable future.  Many in the sustainability field argue that nuclear energy should be rapidly expanded to get us off of fossil fuels.  Others counter that nuclear energy is too dangerous and costly.

In the coming week, I will have several posts on this issue.  Here is what has been written and what can be expected in the coming days:

Sunday:  What is nuclear energy and how is it produced in power plants?

Today:  The distribution of nuclear power plants around the world and the amount of nuclear energy produced.

Tuesday:  The pros of nuclear energy expansion.

Wednesday:  The cons of nuclear energy expansion.

Thursday:  Introduction of the debaters.

Friday:  Debate redux.  My reaction to the debate.


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Today's post is all about the amount and distribution of nuclear power produced around the world.

Globally, about 13% of all electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.  In the United States, this amounts to 20% of our electrical generation.

The list below, ranks the top ten producers of nuclear energy by gross electrical output in GW:

United States 99.1
France 63.1
Japan 42.4
Russia 23.6
South Korea 20.7
China 18.0
Canada 13.5
Ukraine 13.1
Germany 12.1
Sweden 9.5

Given this list, it is clear that the US, France, and Japan are the largest producers of nuclear energy in the world.  Their total production is significantly higher than the production of all other countries on this list.  Indeed, the US produced 10 times the total nuclear energy produced by Sweden.

The importance of the nuclear energy to the total electricity consumed by a nation can be examined by looking at the overall percentage of nuclear energy used in the nation's electricity budget.  

The list below ranks the top ten countries listed above by the percent of nuclear used in their overall electricity production:

France 73%
Ukraine 44%
Sweden 43%
South Korea 28%
United States 20%
Russia 18%
Japan 17%
Canada 16%
Germany 15%
China 2%

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It should be noted that some of the smaller energy consumers, like Hungary and Slovakia get about half of their electricity from nuclear energy and would be higher than Ukraine on this list.  

What is fascinating about this list is that there are some countries, particularly France, that get very large percentages of their electricity from nuclear energy, while some of the other big producers, like Canada and the United States, have a more diversified energy profile.  

What this means is that countries like France, Ukraine, Sweden, Hungary, and Slovakia are vulnerable to energy problems should issues emerge with nuclear energy. Nations with more diversified energy profiles are able to modify production of energy over time as conditions change. 

However, diversification in some areas is very difficult due to the lack of natural energy resources, lack of funds to import energy, or political challenges (for example, France has banned hydraulic fracturing--fracking--to extract natural gas).  

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