Office of Nuclear Energy

INFOGRAPHIC: How Many Holiday Lights Can a Nuclear Reactor Power?

December 18, 2017

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Graphic by Sarah Harman | U.S. Department of Energy

Graphic by Sarah Harman | U.S. Department of Energy

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly—and to be amazed by fun energy stats!

Did you know that 99 nuclear reactors produce 20% of our country’s electricity each year?

They also make up about 60% of America’s carbon-free electricity.

But, if you really want to turn heads this holiday season keep this stat in your ugly sweater:

Just one nuclear reactor can power enough holiday lights to wrap around the globe 27 times over.

Breaking Down The Numbers

A typical U.S. nuclear reactor produces 1 gigawatt of power. That’s a billion watts for this calculation.

Text that reads Ho-Ho-How Holiday Lights work with holiday lights surrounding the words holiday lights.
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A set of LED mini lights can use up to 7 watts of power. For this exercise, we used the higher wattage and an estimated cord length of 25 feet.

Here’s how it broke down…with some rounding:

1,000,000,000 watts ÷ 7 watts = 142,857,143 sets of 100 count LED mini lights.

142,857,143 X 25 feet = 3,571,428,575 feet of lights.

3,571,428,575 ÷ 5,280 feet = 676,407 miles.

676,407 miles ÷ 24,900 miles (the equatorial distance around the earth) = 27.1 times around the world!

Photo a nuclear reactor with holiday lights coming out of the bottom of it.
Download our coloring page, which also doubles as a cut-out ornament!
Sarah Harman | U.S. Department of Energy