Table 1 (below) lists countries in order of the percentage of electricity they derive from nuclear power. This table actually contains two separate measures of electricity: capacity and production. Capacity refers to the manufactured rating of the generation equipment installed in a country, and is measured in megawatts (MW). Generation refers to the energy output over a given period of time (in this case, one year) and is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Table 1 and Table 2 measure gross electricity, including transmission and distribution losses.
|Country||Nuclear as Percentage of Gross Electricity Generation (rounded)||Gross
Generation (million kWh)
|Gross Capacity (MW)|
* World totals include countries not individually listed.
Source: Energy Studies Yearbook: 1993 (New York: United Nations,
Table 2 compares nuclear power to other sources of electricity. While thermal-generated electricity is by far the most common, representing over 60 percent of world-wise electricity, on a regional basis, other energy sources can supply a majority of the electricity. In South America, hydro-electricity accounts for 80 percent of all electricity produced, over four times as much as thermal electricity, and over fifty times as much as nuclear power.
|FOSSIL FUEL||HYDRO||NUCLEAR||GEOTHERMAL and OTHER||TOTAL|
Source: Energy Studies Yearbook: 1993 (New York: United Nations, 1995).
Table 3 looks at the broader context of not just electricity production, but all commercial energy consumption. The 700 million people of Africa, representing about 15 percent of world population, only consumed 3 percent of the world’s commercial energy in 1993. By contrast, North America and Europe, where about one-fifth of the world’s people live, accounted for almost half of all commercial energy consumption.
Among commercial energy sources, the reliance on fossil fuels is clear. Ninety percent of energy in the world comes from fossil fuels (mainly coal, petroleum, and natural gas). However, certain countries obtain a very significant percentage of their energy from nuclear power. In France, for example, nuclear power accounts for about 44% of total energy consumption.
|SOLIDS||LIQUIDS||NATURAL GAS||NUCLEAR**||OTHER ELECTRICITY||TOTAL|
* Solids include hard coal, lignite, peat, and oil shale. Liquids include crude petroleum and natural gas liquids. Other electricity is primarily hydro-electricity, but also included geothermal, wind, tide, wave, and solar sources. Nuclear electricity has been converted to thermal energy equivalent using a factor of 1,000 kWh (electrical) = 0.372 metric tons coal.
** Does not include imports and exports. NOTE: Table 3 lists energy inputs (consumption of primary energy), while Table 2 lists energy outputs (in the form of electricity). This is the reason for the apparent disparity between the figures in the “Nuclear” and “Other Electricity” (primarily hydro-electricity) columns in this table,and those in the “Hydro” and “Nuclear” columns in Table 2. Electricity generation from heat energy (like nuclear) is only about one-third as efficient as electricity generation from mechanical energy (like hydro). While the amount of electricity produced from nuclear and hydro power sources are about equal, the nuclear inputs are three times greater than the hydro inputs. To make energy figures comparable, the “Other” column should be increased to about 27,000 petajoules.
Source: Energy Statistics Yearbook: 1993 (New York: United Nations, 1995).
Numbers in Tables 1-3 are based on the most recent United Nations data available. These tables take into account only commercial energy use, and thus leave out traditional sources of energy, such as wood, animal dung and crop residues (collectively known as biomass) which are used for cooking and heating. Biomass burning accounts for almost 15 percent of the world’s energy consumption. In the developing world, reliance on biomass for energy is even greater: biomass burning is the largest source of energy, making up about 38 percent of total energy use. Because these fuels are non-monetized, their value and the extent of their use are often overlooked. Yet it is the only available energy source for hundreds of millions of people. One crucial energy source not included in these numbers is the energy intake by draft animals, which plays an especially significant role in Asia.
Biomass burning in its current form (Table 4) is inefficient compared to fossil fuels, and creates health and environmental problems. With some investment of money and research, biomass fuels could be converted into modern energy forms which would provide a cleaner, more efficient, and renewable base of energy, and hence preferable to fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
|petajoules||percentage of total energy|
* The category “Industrialized Countries” includes U.S./Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and the former Soviet Union. The heading “Developing Countries” includes Latin America, Africa, Asia (minus Japan), and Oceania (minus Australia and New Zealand).
Source: Thomas B. Johansson, Henry Kelly, Amulya K. N. Reddy, and Robert H. Williams, Renewable Energy: Sources for Fuels and Electricity (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993), pp. 594-5.