Monday, March 28, 2011

Electric Leaders: Nukes and H2O

A table appearing in the 2011 United States Statistical Abstract (here) provides an interesting view of power generation across the globe in 2008. Some extracts from that table are graphed here. I am presenting one bar-graph on the top twenty countries in nuclear electric —and another on the top twenty in hydro-electric generation.

The United States produces 19.4 percent of its electric power using nuclear technology but ranks a distant thirteenth among the twenty leaders in the world. (I like that ranking. We’re contrarians in this family, and 13 is our lucky number.) Notice that Europe is very prominent on this list—and France leads the pack. At 78 percent of its total electricity, it generates 22.2 percent more than its nearest rival, Belgium, at 58.8 percent.

This bar graphs shows the top twenty in hydro-power generation—something of a misnomer. Hydro power relies on gravity. Water is its medium. And capturing tidal power is also due to the gravitational pull—of the moon. Here I show the United States as the twenty-first country. The U.S. doesn’t make the top twenty, but I thought I’d show us by way of comparison. Russia, another country with a large land area, produces 18.3 percent to our 6. China produces 14.1 percent. The leader is Paraguay. And speaking of Paraguay, notice the strong representation here by Latin American countries. Four of the top five are Latin American—and they’d sweep if Norway would not be butting in so powerfully. Aren’t they satisfied to have off-shore oil and gas. Ah, these northerners.

Five countries make both lists. These are, in order of their hydro-rankings, Sweden, Argentina, Romania, Russia, and Finland. And in their nuclear rankings, Sweden (again), Finland, Russia, Romania, and Argentina. Most balanced in this sub-list are Sweden and Russia. Both produce roughly the same percentage of electricity from both nukes and hydro-electric.

You might think that countries ranking high in hydro had it made. Nukes have the major problems of safety and waste disposal. Hydro-electric has the problem that dams eventually silt up and natural water flow is subject to climate change. Nobody is ever dealt the perfect hand that will take the pot forever and ever more.

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