If you print out all of the volumes of research and analysis Enverus Trading & Risk has produced this year, the stack of materials on oil, natural gas, and renewables would dwarf the nuclear power pile. The nuclear energy market just isn’t top-of-mind for energy commodity investors. However, now is the time to start watching the sector more closely.
That may not make sense if you only look at the following electricity generation charts for the U.K., U.S., Russia, and Japan, dating back nearly three decades. These countries all had a strong nuclear fuel electricity generation mix until experiencing serious accidents that prompted shifts to other fuel sources. (Data: IEA; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios):
A Global Overreaction?
But does nuclear energy deserve its bad reputation? Not according to the expert authors of an April 2019 New York Times opinion piece titled, “Nuclear Power Can Save the World,” who point out that:
“In 60 years of nuclear power, only three accidents have raised public alarm: Three Mile Island in 1979, which killed no one; Fukushima in 2011, which killed no one (many deaths resulted from the tsunami and some from a panicked evacuation near the plant); and Chernobyl … which killed 31 in the accident and perhaps several thousand from cancer, around the same number killed by coal emissions every day.”
Green, Reliable, and Safe
Nuclear power plants emit no greenhouse gases because they produce energy via nuclear fission, not chemical burning. The result is baseload electricity with no output of carbon. Every year, nuclear stations reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 700 million tons in Europe, and by nearly 210 million tons in Russia, according to a CNN Business article in September.
Additionally, nuclear power is more reliable because plants operate at much higher capacity factors than renewable energy sources or fossil fuels.
We can’t ignore the issue of safely storing solid radioactive waste fuel assemblies (sets of sealed metal tubes containing ceramic uranium pellets). There are more than 52,000 tons in the U.S. alone. While that sounds like a lot, consider this—all of the used fuel the U.S. commercial nuclear industry has produced since the late 1950s would only cover a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards. Coal plants generate that amount of waste every hour, according to The Nuclear Energy Institute.
Even more promising for nuclear power advocates (and the companies and investors with visions of future revenue streams) is the ability to recycle that waste instead of storing it.
Creating New Investment Opportunities
The new documentary on Bill Gates, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” includes a fascinating examination of his obsession with solving the climate change crisis. The film dives into why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation founded a new company, TerraPower, to advance clean energy innovation. TerraPower had an exciting breakthrough that turns stockpiles of radioactive waste into energy. They began working with the Chinese government to build a pilot facility which looked promising until recently. For now, the U.S.-China trade disputes have stalled the project, but it’s never a good idea to bet against Bill and Melinda Gates’ persistence.
Worldwide, more companies and electricity providers are developing advanced reactor technologies and commercializing them on accelerated timelines. For example, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale are making rapid progress toward constructing the first commercial small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear power plant in the United States.
SMRs offer many advantages over traditional plants, including their relatively small sizes, reduced capital investments, the ability to be built in locations that cannot accommodate larger plants, and much smaller emergency planning zones (EPZs), according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
GreenTech Media reported that NuScale plans to begin construction in eastern Idaho and delivering electricity to UAMPS customers in 2026.
It’s one of the many exciting advancements growing nuclear power’s global footprint. Today, there are 444 commercial nuclear power reactors operating worldwide, another 54 under construction, and 111 in the planning stages, chiefly in China, India, and Russia. This includes the first-ever floating nuclear power plant, according to an October article in POWER.
A Rarity: Bipartisan Support
Nuclear energy has managed to break through the bitter partisan logjam among U.S. lawmakers. President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) into law in January 2019, eliminating many financial and technological barriers that were stunting innovation. There is broad bipartisan support for the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) which focuses on authorizing long-term power purchase agreements for nuclear power.
At Enverus, we believe that energy is the industry that powers our world. Clearly, nuclear power will play an increasing role in that future.
Today, you’re using tools like the Enverus Trading & Risk MarketView® Fundamentals platform to compile the research and analysis you need to make the best trading and investment decisions. Nuclear power may not appear on your radar for several more years. That’s why you can trust Enverus to stay on top of key issues and uncover the risks and opportunities most valuable to the short- and long-term future of your business.
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