The New Nuclear Age

Here is an excerpt of a Caloen Report published two years ago on the boom in demand for nuclear energy. If anything, this boom has accelerated since then.

February 19, 2009
The Nuclear Energy Boom
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The nuclear energy lobby should build a shrine to Mr. Putin.
And he should share it with the president of Ukraine who once survived a mysterious poisoning for which Putin is totally innocent.
Their standoff last month over payments for natural gas supplies was a blessing for the nuclear industry.
By letting the Europeans freeze for two weeks, Putin managed to wake them up.
Europeans have now a good reason to abandon their opposition to nuclear power that dates back to the Chernobil accident in 1986.
Nuclear energy is good for the alleged global warming and it helps energy independence.
Astonishingly, even the Swedes are now looking to reverse their 30 year ban on building new nuclear plants.
Poland, ever sensitive to any dependency on their Russian neighbors’ goodwill, is planning to build two new nuclear power plants.
Ten European countries have for the first time decided to give nuclear energy a “serious consideration.” These are Italy, Portugal, Norway, Turkey, Ireland, Albania, Belarus and the Baltic states.
Spain is considering an 11% increase in its nuclear capacity by “uprating” nine reactors, while Finland and Romania are already building new plants.
And it does not end there. E.ON and RWE have announced the creation of a 50:50 JV that plans to build new nuclear plants in the UK.
Only Germany and Denmark are dragging their feet.
The latter made a strategic decision to promote wind energy instead.
Twenty percent of Denmark’s electricity is now originated from windmills which are crowding this small and densely populated country.
Unfortunately, today’s windmills have little in common with those painted by Breughel. They are a sore for the eye, especially since they always come in large numbers. Ted Kennedy, who does not want a wind farm off the coast of his beloved Cape Cod, seems to share my aesthetic prejudice. Renewable energy is a good thing, but not in his back yard.
We are undoubtedly experiencing a nuclear rebirth in Europe.
My colleague at du Pasquier, John Eills, wrote in a recent paper, “Only nuclear power can provide the consistent, non-polluting, high density base-load energy to power a modern industrial society.” He points out that “the solar panels necessary to produce electricity equal to the capacity of a typical 600 megawatt generating plant would cover about five square miles of the earth’s surface. And as every sailor knows, the wind is inconstant.”
Global demand.
Today, there are 436 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide.
The U.S. has 104 of them (which accounts for 20% of our electricity).
France comes second with 59, just ahead of Japan (53).
Many of these reactors were built a long time ago and are approaching their original design life span.
Reactors under construction today amount to 43, with a full quarter of those in China.
The number on order globally is 108. Here again a quarter of the orders come from China.
Then there are a number of “proposed” reactors according to the world nuclear association.
266 of them globally and more than a quarter of these are in China, again.
So, adding these numbers up, the world is about to double its nuclear capacity.
China alone is projected to add 109 new nuclear plants to the 11 in operation today.
And this is before we start seeing the ripple effects of the Russians’ strong arming the Ukrainians.
Process.
One can invest at four different levels in the nuclear energy process: mining of uranium, enrichment of that uranium, engineering of nuclear plants and the recycling of nuclear fuel. Only one publicly traded company is active at all levels: Areva.
The largest uranium mining company is the Canadian Caneco.
Enrichment is being done by USEC in the U.S., but the Europeans Areva and Urenco (government consortium between the UK, Holland and Germany) have a more efficient technology. Areva has also announced its intention to build an enrichment facility in the U.S. to circumvent a likely import tax engineered by USEC.
Iran too is trying to become a player…
On the engineering side, the two best plays outside the U.S. market are Toshiba (with the acquisition of Westinghouse) and Areva.
However Toshiba is not exactly a pure play.
Finally, recycling is not done in the U.S. out of concern that the plutonium that comes with nuclear fuel could fall in the wrong hands and be developed into nuclear arms. The Europeans think this is manageable and they have thus developed a nice monopoly.
Even the Japanese get their used fuel reprocessed in Europe.
One would think this is a highly profitable activity for Areva.

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