Maria grew up in Malta and attended its one and only university. In Summer 2010 she graduated in Mechanical Engineering, and later that year started an EngD at the University of Bristol and Rolls-Royce. Maria has always loved writing and, as an undergraduate student dealing mostly with numbers and single Greek letters, decided to start writing for student newspapers and websites.
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This is the first article of a series on how different countries around the world generate electricity. First up is Switzerland - a landlocked European country that is not part of the EU, has a population of eight million, an area of 41,285km2 and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $370billion. Switzerland has the highest wealth per adult of any country in the world and the eighth highest GDP per capita. It practices direct or ‘pure’ democracy which means the population makes decisions on policy directly as opposed to via representative democracy, and any member of the public can challenge a law approved by the parliament.
In 2008, 58.7 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity were consumed in the country and 1.1 billion kWh were exported . On a recent visit to a nuclear power plant near Zurich I came to appreciate that approximately 95% of Switzerland’s electricity is generated from nuclear power (39%) and hydropower (56%) .
There are five nuclear generating facilities – three of them with Pressure Water Reactors and two of them with Boiling Water Reactors. I visited Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant which generates 1165MWe (‘e’ for electrical) making it the largest nuclear generating facility in the country. There are 556 hydropower plants in the country - approximately half of hydropower is generated from run-of-river plants and half from storage plants, most of the latter are of the ‘dam’ variety and the rest are pumped storage. The topography of Switzerland and its high annual rainfall make it an ideal location for hydropower. Indeed, in the 1970s almost 90% of domestic electricity was produced using hydropower but this fell to 60% in the 1980s following the commissioning of the nuclear power...
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