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Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

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Graphic cubes illustrating the global volume of nuclear waste and its disposal methods.

Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

Originally posted on the Decarbonization Channel. Subscribe to the free mailing list to be the first to receive decarbonization-related visualizations, with a focus on the U.S. power sector.

Nuclear power is among the safest and cleanest sources of electricity, making it a critical part of the clean energy transition.

However, nuclear waste, an inevitable byproduct, is often misunderstood.

In collaboration with the National Public Utilities Council, this graphic shows the volume of all existing nuclear waste, categorized by its level of hazardousness and disposal requirements, based on data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Storage and Disposal

Nuclear provides about 10% of global electricity generation.

Nuclear waste, produced as a result of this, can be divided into four different types:

  • Very low-level waste: Waste suitable for near-surface landfills, requiring lower containment and isolation.
  • Low-level waste: Waste needing robust containment for up to a few hundred years, suitable for disposal in engineered near-surface facilities.
  • Intermediate-level waste: Waste that requires a greater degree of containment and isolation than that provided by near-surface disposal.
  • High-level waste: Waste is disposed of in deep, stable geological formations, typically several hundred meters below the surface.

Despite safety concerns, high-level radioactive waste constitutes less than 0.25% of total radioactive waste reported to the IAEA.

Waste ClassDisposed (cubic meters)Stored (cubic meters)Total (cubic meters)
Very low-level waste758,802313,8821,072,684
Low-level waste1,825,558204,8582,030,416
Intermediate level waste671,097201,893872,990
High-level waste3,9605,3239,283

Stored and disposed radioactive waste reported to the IAEA under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Data is from the last reporting year which varies by reporting country, 2019-2023.

The amount of waste produced by the nuclear power industry is small compared to other industrial activities.

While flammable liquids comprise 82% of the hazardous materials shipped annually in the U.S., radioactive waste accounts for only 0.01%.

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Energy Shift

Visualized: The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Visual Capitalist partnered with EnergyX to analyze five major clean energy stocks and explore the factors driving this growth.

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This line chart shows the growth of clean energy stocks and hints at their cumulative five-year returns.

The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Over the last few years, energy investment trends have shifted from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. Long-term energy investors now see significant returns from clean energy stocks, especially compared to those invested in fossil fuels alone.

For this graphic, Visual Capitalist has collaborated with EnergyX to examine the rise of clean energy stocks and gain a deeper understanding of the factors driving this growth.

Sustainable Energy Stock Performance

In 2023, the IEA reported that 62% of all energy investment went toward sustainable sources. As the world embraces sustainable energy and technologies like EVs, it’s no surprise that clean energy companies provide solid returns for their investors over long periods.

Taking the top-five clean energy stocks by market cap (as of April 2024) and charting their five-year cumulative returns, it is clear that investments in clean energy are growing:

CompanyPrice: 01/04/2019Price: 12/29/20245-Year-Return %
First Solar, Inc.$46.32$172.28272%
Enphase Energy, Inc.$5.08$132.142,501%
Consolidated Edison, Inc.$76.55$90.9719%
NextEra Energy, Inc.$43.13$60.7441%
Brookfield Renewable Partners$14.78$26.2878%
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

But how does this compare to the performance of fossil fuel stocks?

When comparing the performance of the S&P Global Oil Index and the S&P Clean Energy Index between 2019 and 2023, we see that the former returned 15%, whereas the latter returned an impressive 41%. This trend demonstrates the potential for clean energy stocks to yield significant returns on an industry level, sparking optimism and excitement for potential investors.

A Shift In Returns

With global investment trends moving away from traditional, non-sustainable sources, the companies that could shape the energy transition provide investors with alternative opportunities and avenues for growth.

One such company is EnergyX. The lithium technology company has patented a groundbreaking technology that can improve lithium extraction rates by an incredible 300%, and its stock price has grown tenfold since its first offering in 2021.

promotional graphic that promotes the EnergyX investment site
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Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist has partnered with EnergyX to explore the growth of global clean energy investment.

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Visualized: A Decade of Clean Energy Investment

Global energy investment is growing every year. But recently, investments in clean energy have been significantly outpacing investments in fossil fuels.

For this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to explore how global energy investment has changed and learn how investments in clean energy are starting to pay off for their investors.

The Rise of Sustainable Energy Investment

Propelled by various climate initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the widespread adoption of EVs, global investment in sustainable energy surged to over $1.7 trillion in 2023, the highest ever, and the IEA projects that this growth could continue:

Energy Product20202021202220232030F
Clean Electrification$0.97T$1.05$1.21T$1.34T$1.65T
Low-Emission Fuels$0.01T$0.01$0.01T$0.02T$0.05T
Energy Efficiency$0.28T$0.35$0.39T$0.38T$0.49T
Clean Energy Total$1.26T$1.41T$1.61T$1.74T$2.19T
Natural Gas$0.26T$0.27T$0.31T$0.32T$0.35T
Oil$0.42T$0.48T$0.52T$0.55T$0.60T
Coal$0.16T$0.16T$0.18T$0.18T$0.11T
Fossil Fuel Total$0.84T$0.91T$1.01T$1.05T$1.06T
Total Energy Investment$2.10T$2.32T$2.62T$2.79T$3.25T
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

Between 2020 and 2030, global investment in sustainable energy could increase by 74% to nearly $2.2 trillion, compared to just 26% additional investment in fossil fuels, with a forecast total of $1.06 trillion. This shows that sustainability is the future of energy investment.

Sustainable Investor Success Stories

While the growing investments in clean energy show that the world embraces sustainability, energy investors will still look for decent returns. Now, in 2024, clean energy investments are beginning to bear fruit. Here are just a few examples:

  • Between 2019 and 2023, Tesla had a cumulative return of 1,073%
  • NextEra Energy’s quarterly dividend increased by over 10% as of February 2024
  • Investors in EnergyX have 10x’ed their investments since the company’s first offering in 2021

Lithium plays a critical role in powering electric vehicles (EVs) and facilitating the transition to sustainable energy. EnergyX has patented technology that enhances lithium extraction rates by up to 300%, contributing to meeting the growing demand for lithium and fueling the EVs of the future.

promotional graphic that promotes the EnergyX investment site
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