About 99% of Norway's total production of electricity comes from hydroelectric power, but on a world basis this is just a drop in the ocean. Only 2% of the world's energy production derives from water power, whereas 87% comes from energy minerals. If one assesses the generation of electricity from all possible sources, hydroelectricity accounts for 16% and energy minerals for precisely two-thirds. Based on figures released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the main trend over the last 40 years has been an increasing use of energy minerals. Energy minerals are the geological resources that we can utilise to generate energy as, for example, by nuclear fission (nuclear power) or combustion (fossil fuels).
Despite their organic origins, the diverse fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal and peat – are regarded as energy minerals. Of these, coal is decidedly the most important contributor for the production of electricity on a world basis. Coal alone represents the source for 40% of the electricity generated worldwide, followed by natural gas (c. 20%) and oil (6.5%).
NGU has traditionally been very little involved with energy minerals from a resource point of view. On the other hand, NGU is actively involved with geophysical measurements and aspects of plate tectonics, which are important for petroleum prospecting activity. NGU has also collaborated with the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani on Svalbard.
Nuclear power and splittable metals
Nuclear power is the source of 15% of the world's production of electricity and is based on two physical processes involving the release of energy:
* Fusion – the fusion of light atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus
* Fission – the fission or splitting of a heavy atomic nucleus into two lighter nuclei
As fusion requires temperatures of several million degrees centigrade, today it is just fission that is put to use in a commercial context. The energy that we receive from the Sun derives from fusion processes in the Sun's interior, where hydrogen is transformed to helium. Fission is a process in which heavy nuclei split as, for example, uranium (U235) and plutonium (Pu239) or thorium (Th232). In a nuclear reactor, energy released by fission is used to generate electrical energy.
NGU carried out mapping of uranium (U) resources in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as over a ten-year period from the mid-1970s. These maps, together with other information, were used as background data during the monitoring and measurement of radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Data acquired from the measurement of natural radioactivity in bedrock have been, and still are, the basis for the compilation and presentation of county maps depicting natural radioactive radiation.