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How the Power Grid Actually Works

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Have you ever wondered about how electricity actually makes it to your household outlet?

It’s actually quite miraculous: a complex system of substations, transformers and wires allow electricity to be instantly accessed at your convenience, even though it is generated hundreds of miles away.

The following infographic shows how the power grid works – and it helps explain how electricity gets from the power plant to your household socket:

How the Power Grid Actually Works

The power grid has four important parts:

Generation: Electricity is created by burning fossil fuels, nuclear reactions, or collecting wind, solar, or water energy.

Transmission: Electricity immediately goes to substations, where it is converted to a higher voltage via step-up transformers. This allows the electricity to travel long distances more efficiently.

Distribution: Poles take electricity to where it needs to go. It is converted to a low voltage through step-down transformers, so that it can be used by houses or businesses.

End Use: Once distributed, energy is used to keep food cold, rooms lit, and computers charged.

Power Grid Innovations

The future of grids is exciting, and these are some of the most important innovations that will affect how power is managed and distributed to cities:

Microgrids: These are tiny, self-sufficient grids that can be “detached” from the larger grid. Microgrids will help to mitigate grid disturbances, and will make power grids more resilient as a whole.

Energy Storage: As society becomes better at solving the energy problem with better batteries and other new ways of approaching energy storage, our grids will be better able to manage excess energy supply and demand.

Smart Meters: Smart meters allow two-way communication between consumers and utility companies. Such meters allow utility companies to more efficiently match energy generation and consumption. They also help to alert utility companies when power is out, so that any issues can be resolved faster.

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Energy

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium reserves by country, with 3 countries accounting for more than half of total reserves.

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A cropped chart visualizing the distribution of the global uranium reserves, by country.

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

There can be a tendency to believe that uranium deposits are scarce from the critical role it plays in generating nuclear energy, along with all the costs and consequences related to the field.

But uranium is actually fairly plentiful: it’s more abundant than gold and silver, for example, and about as present as tin in the Earth’s crust.

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium resources by country, as of 2021. Figures come from the World Nuclear Association, last updated on August 2023.

Ranked: Uranium Reserves By Country (2021)

Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada have the largest shares of available uranium resources—accounting for more than 50% of total global reserves.

But within these three, Australia is the clear standout, with more than 1.7 million tonnes of uranium discovered (28% of the world’s reserves) currently. Its Olympic Dam mine, located about 600 kilometers north of Adelaide, is the the largest single deposit of uranium in the world—and also, interestingly, the fourth largest copper deposit.

Despite this, Australia is only the fourth biggest uranium producer currently, and ranks fifth for all-time uranium production.

CountryShare of Global
Reserves
Uranium Reserves (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia28%1.7M
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan13%815K
🇨🇦 Canada10%589K
🇷🇺 Russia8%481K
🇳🇦 Namibia8%470K
🇿🇦 South Africa5%321K
🇧🇷 Brazil5%311K
🇳🇪 Niger5%277K
🇨🇳 China4%224K
🇲🇳 Mongolia2%145K
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2%131K
🇺🇦 Ukraine2%107K
🌍 Rest of World9%524K
Total100%6M

Figures are rounded.

Outside the top three, Russia and Namibia both have roughly the same amount of uranium reserves: about 8% each, which works out to roughly 470,000 tonnes.

South Africa, Brazil, and Niger all have 5% each of the world’s total deposits as well.

China completes the top 10, with a 3% share of uranium reserves, or about 224,000 tonnes.

A caveat to this is that current data is based on known uranium reserves that are capable of being mined economically. The total amount of the world’s uranium is not known exactly—and new deposits can be found all the time. In fact the world’s known uranium reserves increased by about 25% in the last decade alone, thanks to better technology that improves exploration efforts.

Meanwhile, not all uranium deposits are equal. For example, in the aforementioned Olympic Dam, uranium is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining occurring at the same site. In South Africa, it emerges as a byproduct during treatment of ores in the gold mining process. Orebodies with high concentrations of two substances can increase margins, as costs can be shared for two different products.

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