Connect with us

Energy Shift

The Safest Source of Energy Will Surprise You

Published

on

The World's Safest Source of Energy Will Surprise You

The World’s Safest Source of Energy Will Surprise You

When it comes to conversations on energy, it’s hard to leave your feelings at the door.

It’s arguable that energy is the single most important driver of human progress – it’s a multi-trillion dollar industry that powers our daily lives, technological advancements, and even the economic development of entire countries. At the same time, our choices around energy can have significant consequences. How we decide to generate energy can decimate the environment, fuel political conflicts, and even cause human deaths as unwelcome side effects.

The outcomes from our choices around energy are so vivid, that we’ve developed strong and polarized associations with the subject at hand.

The Empirical Perspective

Today’s visualization on the safest sources of energy comes to us from Cambridge House, the company hosting the International Mining Investment Conference 2018 on May 15-16 in Vancouver, BC, and it uses an empirical approach to compare different energy sources with one another.

Based on the data, this comparison provides a perspective that will be surprising to many viewers. Despite its perceived dangers, nuclear is actually the safest type of energy.

Energy SourceDeaths per 1,000 TWh% of Global Primary Energy Supply (2015)
Coal100,00028.1%
Oil36,00031.7%
Natural Gas4,00021.6%
Hydro1,4002.5%
Solar440*<1%
Wind150<1%
Nuclear904.9%

That’s right – even when including seemingly catastrophic incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima in the calculations, the math says that the amount of energy generated by nuclear is so vast that it more than outweighs these incidents over the long-term.

The reality is that nuclear energy is much more comparable to renewables like solar or wind, in terms of safety. More importantly, it’s on the polar opposite of the spectrum from coal, which manages to kill 4,400 people daily in China alone.

The Nuclear Option

Interestingly, multiple studies have come to this exact same conclusion, including the ones used in an analysis by economist Max Roser’s project called Our World in Data.

Even though the conclusion on nuclear is pretty cut and dry, it’s still hard to absorb. After all, the relative safety of nuclear ends up being extremely counter-intuitive to our human brains, which are seemingly wired to put more weight on big, memorable events (i.e. Chernobyl) rather than slow, consistent deaths that occur over time with other energy sources.

Today, nuclear provides about 11% of the world’s electricity from about 450 power reactors, generating about 2,500 TWh of electricity each year.

And while there are still questions that remain – specifically revolving around how to store certain types of nuclear waste – the above data explains why the majority of scientists classify nuclear as a sustainable and safe energy source, along with other renewables.

This post originally appeared on Visual Capitalist’s new VC Metals channel, home to data-driven visual content on metals, commodities, and energy.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.
Continue Reading
Comments

Energy Shift

Visualizing Nuclear Power Production by Country

Nuclear power accounted for 10% of global electricity generated in 2020. Here’s a look at the largest nuclear power producers.

Published

on

Nuclear Power Production by Country

Nearly 450 reactors around the world supply various nations with nuclear power, combining for about 10% of the world’s electricity, or about 4% of the global energy mix.

But while some countries are turning to nuclear as a clean energy source, nuclear energy generation overall has seen a slowdown since its peak in the 1990s.

The above infographic breaks down nuclear electricity generation by country in 2020 using data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).

Ranked: The Top 15 Countries for Nuclear Power

Just 15 countries account for more than 91% of global nuclear power production. Hereโ€™s how much energy these countries produced in 2020:

RankCountryNumber of Operating ReactorsNuclear Electricity Supplied
[GWh]
% share
#1U.S. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ96789,91930.9%
#2China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ50344,74813.5%
#3France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท58338,67113.3%
#4Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ39201,8217.9%
#5South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท24152,5836.0%
#6Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ1992,1663.6%
#7Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ1571,5502.8%
#8Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช660,9182.4%
#9Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ755,8252.2%
#10Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช747,3621.9%
#11U.K. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง1545,6681.8%
#12Japan ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต3343,0991.7%
#13India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ2240,3741.6%
#14Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช732,7931.3%
#15Czechia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ628,3721.1%
Rest of the World ๐ŸŒŽ44207,3408.1%
Total4482,553,208100.0%

In the U.S., nuclear power produces over 50% of the country’s clean electricity. Additionally, 88 of the country’s 96 operating reactors in 2020 received approvals for a 20-year life extension.

China, the world’s second-largest nuclear power producer, is investing further in nuclear energy in a bid to achieve its climate goals. The plan, which includes building 150 new reactors by 2035, could cost as much as $440 billion.

On the other hand, European opinions on nuclear energy are mixed. Germany is the eighth-largest on the list but plans to shutter its last operating reactor in 2022 as part of its nuclear phase-out. France, meanwhile, plans to expand its nuclear capacity.

Which Countries Rely Most on Nuclear Energy?

Although total electricity generation is useful for a high-level global comparison, itโ€™s important to remember that there are some smaller countries not featured above where nuclear is still an important part of the electricity mix.

Hereโ€™s a breakdown based on the share of nuclear energy in a country’s electricity mix:

RankCountryNuclear Share of Electricity Mix
#1France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท70.6%
#2Slovakia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ53.1%
#3Ukraine ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ51.2%
#4Hungary ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ48.0%
#5Bulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ40.8%
#6Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช39.1%
#7Slovenia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ37.8%
#8Czechia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ37.3%
#9Armenia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฒ34.5%
#10Finland ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ33.9%
#11Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ32.9%
#12Sweden ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช29.8%
#13South Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท29.6%
#14Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ22.2%
#15Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ20.6%
#16Romania ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด19.9%
#17United States ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ19.7%
#18Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ14.6%
#19United Kingdom ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง14.5%
#20Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช11.3%

European countries dominate the leaderboard with 14 of the top 15 spots, including France, where nuclear power is the country’s largest source of electricity.

Itโ€™s interesting to note that only a few of these countries are top producers of nuclear in absolute terms. For example, in Slovakia, nuclear makes up 53.6% of the electricity mixโ€”however, the country’s four reactors make up less than 1% of total global operating capacity.

On the flipside, the U.S. ranks 17th by share of nuclear power in its mix, despite producing 31% of global nuclear electricity in 2020. This discrepancy is largely due to size and population. European countries are much smaller and produce less electricity overall than larger countries like the U.S. and China.

The Future of Nuclear Power

The nuclear power landscape is constantly changing.

There were over 50 additional nuclear reactors under construction in 2020, and hundreds more are planned primarily in Asia.

As countries turn away from fossil fuels and embrace carbon-free energy sources, nuclear energy might see a resurgence in the global energy mix despite the phase-outs planned in several countries around he globe.

Continue Reading

Energy Shift

How Energy Prices Performed in 2021

Energy commodities surged in 2021 as demand picked up and supply remained constricted, but which fuels flew highest?

Published

on

Energy price performance 2021

How Energy Prices Performed in 2021

A year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world started to reopen and generate insatiable energy demand. Supply shortages and the clean energy transition further fueled the rise of all energy commodities.

Even in a year where markets and commodities performed strongly, energy prices stood out. The energy component of the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) rose by 59% in 2021, returning more than double any other component in the index.

Letโ€™s take a look at how energy commodities performed in 2021, as tracked by Trading Economics and TradingView.

How Much Did Energy Prices Climb in 2021?

After dipping into negative prices in April of 2020, WTI crude oil had a strong bounce back.

Many of crude oil’s derivative products also increased in price by double digits, resulting in higher gas prices at the pump. The U.S. average retail price for gasoline increased by 45.8% to close at $3.28/gal, while wholesale prices of RBOB gasoline also climbed by 57.8%.

Asset2021 Returns
TTF Gas290.6%
UK Gas215.9%
Ethanol101.7%
Coal93.1%
Lumber59.4%
RBOB Gasoline57.8%
WTI Crude Oil56.4%
Heating Oil53.1%
Brent Crude Oil50.7%
Natural Gas46.9%
Naphtha46.5%
Uranium U30840.3%
Propane33.6%
Methanol3.2%

Natural gas prices in Europe and the UK saw the biggest price increases in 2021, jumping more than 200%.

They were followed by ethanol, a biofuel that oil refiners are required to blend with their products. This requirement, along with the price rises in corn and sugar (ethanol’s primary raw materials around the world), made this hot commodity even more expensive.

Rising Natural Gas Prices Fuel Tension and Unrest

While the U.S. saw increases in its gasoline prices as well, these were mild compared to surges in Europe and elsewhere.

With close to 43% of Europeโ€™s total gas imports coming from Russia, no additional supply was provided during the cold winter months. This was compounded as Germanyโ€™s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has remained in limbo.

So far, 2022 has been a continuation of these trends. For example, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) prices have nearly doubled due to unrest in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan governmentโ€™s decision to lift price controls on LPG (the primary fuel for Kazakh cars) saw prices surge and led to days of protests and Russian intervention.

Coal Stays Strong Despite the Clean Energy Transition

Despite 2021โ€™s emphasis on the clean energy transition, coal prices nearly doubled as the world was unable to shake off its dependence on the fossil fuel.

Even pledges from the COP26 climate change conference, such as China’s to reduce coal consumption after 2025, are not yet having an impact on prices. That’s because the country is still planning to add up to 150 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity before then.

On the other hand, uranium couldnโ€™t keep up with the price rises of fossil fuels. Although the energy metal had a breakout year as one of the recently renewed hopes for cleaner energy, the outlook for nuclear energy adoption and development is still mixed.

While China is expected to invest as much as $440B into new nuclear power plants over the next 10 years, Germany shut down half of its remaining plants in 2021.

After the surge of energy prices in 2021, nations will need to carefully manage their clean energy transitions to avoid further unsustainable price rises.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Receive updates when new visuals go live:

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Latest News

The latest news from our sponsors:

Popular