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Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

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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 waste1,825,558204,8592,030,416
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

Visualizing Natural Gas Reserves By Country

Russia has the biggest reserves, accounting for around 20% of the global total.

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Stacked Bar Chart Showing Natural Gas Reserves by Country

Visualizing Natural Gas Reserves By Country

Natural gas is used to generate electricity, heat homes and buildings, and power vehicles. It is also a raw material in various industrial processes.

In this graphic, creator Gopalakrishnan Ravichandran ranks natural gas reserves by country. He uses data from the bp Statistical Review, as of September 2023.

Russia Has the Biggest Reserves

Natural gas, coal, and oil have formed over millions of years as plant and animal remains mixed with sediment and undergo pressure and heat.

A natural gas reservoir is a subsurface area where natural gas is trapped within porous and permeable rock formations and confined by impermeable rock or water barriers.

Proven reserves represent the volume of natural gas that can be recovered under existing economic and operating conditions. These reserves can increase when new, successful exploratory wells are drilled.

Russia has the biggest reserves, with 37.4 trillion cubic meters or around 20% of the global total. Iran, in second, has 17% of the total reserves, followed by Qatar with 13%.

CountryReserve (tcm)Percentage
🇷🇺 Russian Federation37.419.9%
🇮🇷 Iran32.117.1%
🇶🇦 Qatar24.713.1%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan13.67.2%
🇺🇸 US12.66.7%
🇨🇳 China8.44.5%
🇻🇪 Venezuela6.33.3%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia6.03.2%
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates5.93.1%
🇳🇬 Nigeria5.52.9%
🇮🇶 Iraq3.51.9%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan2.51.3%
🇨🇦 Canada2.41.3%
🇦🇺 Australia2.41.3%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan2.31.2%
🇩🇿 Algeria2.31.2%
🇪🇬 Egypt2.11.1%
Others18.19.6%
TOTAL188.1100.0%

Asia dominates reserves by region, with six countries among the top 10. Meanwhile, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America each have one representative.

Despite being the 5th in proven reserves, the U.S. is the biggest natural gas producer, with 23% of the global share. Russia comes second (17.4%), with Iran in 3rd place (6.4%).

In addition, the U.S. is also the leading gas exporter, exporting 82.7 billion cubic meters of gas via pipelines in 2022 and 104.3 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Russia was the second-largest natural gas exporter globally, followed by Qatar and Norway.

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