CO2 Intensities: Top 7 GDP-Producing Countries

What Would Our Carbon Intensities Be Without Nuclear Power?

Normalizing CO2 emissions to overall energy consumption is a reasonable indicator of a country’s carbon intensity. Low values indicate a greater dependency on low- or zero-carbon resources whereas higher values indicate a greater dependency on fossil fuels. This figure is for the top 7 GDP producing countries in the world, constituting about 60% of total global GDP. The figure includes nuclear and combined solar/wind as percentages of the respective generation portfolios as well as each country’s residential price per kWhr.


Some notable points:

  1. The country with the lowest intensity is France, where the electricity portfolio is 76.9% nuclear (no real surprise here);
  2. U.S. nuclear generation is equal to Germany’s renewable generation—both about 19.5%. While Germany has quite a bit more solar/wind than the U.S. (14.1% vs. 5.4%), U.S. carbon intensity generally tracks Germany’s as well as as the UK’s, which is at about 14.2% renewables.
  3. The major difference between the U.S. and Germany is price, where the U.S. is at 11.9 cents/kWhr and Germany is at 38.8 cents/kWhr. In fact, for the five countries for which I could get reasonable price data, the U.S. is the lowest of all.
  4. While the respective intensities for each country are trending downward, Japan and India are exceptions. For Japan, the reason being that, post-Fukushima, its nuclear share decreased from 25.8% in 2010 to 0.4% in 2015. For India, it’s a deeply complex matter of establishing and developing an industrialized economy while trying to meet the energy needs for hundreds of millions living in energy poverty.

This is one more indication that if carbon and climate are the issues, then it’s reasonable to argue the benefits of nuclear power as well as the need to focus our attention on developing regions such as India. While EPA’s Clean Power Plan may give us the impression we’re contributing to the climate issue (which I contend it really doesn’t) our resources are much better invested in areas where U.S. industry and innovation can be leveraged in the development and deployment of modern power generation systems, particularly nuclear power.



3 thoughts on “CO2 Intensities: Top 7 GDP-Producing Countries”

  1. Just read your article in the latest Georgia magazine. I was disappointed that you did not address the serious problem with nuclear waste. I’m not against including nuclear power plants in our energy policy but we can’t continue ignoring this serious issue.


    1. Bill: The absence of comment on nuclear waste in no way reflects a lack of concern on my part—nuclear waste is no trivial issue and is certainly of critical importance, which is why the stellar U.S. track record on the handling of nuclear waste is reassuring. Rather, the commentary was focused on overall energy policy and the need for the U.S. to incorporate stability so that energy issues (nuclear waste being such an issue) can be accommodated from one political administration to the next rather than being held as a political hostage in between election cycles. I’ve been vocal in other social media as to the need for including policy to address not only how we handle and store nuclear waste via centralized storage such as Yucca Mountain, but also ending our current ban on fuel reprocessing so that we can close and economize the nuclear fuel cycle. In my opinion, if we must store the waste, centralized storage is preferred over on-site storage, although politics has prohibited that. However, I believe the U.S. should also modernize its nuclear fuel cycle (which actually isn’t a cycle at all) to include re-processing. Again, please know that I do not count nuclear waste as a trivial issue. In the context of energy-environment-climate, it’s critical. However, in my opinion, nuclear waste and nuclear power have become political footballs rather than technological solutions to big problems.


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