Nuclear Stock Market

June 23, 2015 | 11:10 am
Dave Lochbaum
Former Contributor

Fission Stories #191

News such as last year’s closure of four nuclear power reactors, this year’s closure of another reactor, and Exelon’s claim that many of its reactors cannot break even absent even greater subsidies suggests that now might not be the best time to invest in nuclear technology. But it doesn’t mean that nuclear technology need not be considered when playing the stock market.

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a large tsunami wave off the coast of Japan. This one-two punch caused the three operating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to melt down.

In March 2012, the NRC ordered owners of nuclear plants in the United States to take steps to reduce vulnerabilities to earthquake and flooding hazards. The orders included walking down the plants to identify weaknesses and recommend upgrades to protective measures.

So, savvy stock marketeers should consider investing in companies manufacturing and installing leak-tight doors, flood walls, and the like? Nope, at least not yet.

Instead, Wall Street should look at L-Z-Boy and hammock makers.

Earlier this year, the owners of many nuclear plants like Beaver Valley, Farley, Fort Calhoun, and Peach Bottom, requested permission from the NRC to postpone the evaluations they had been ordered to complete. The NRC approved all the delays requested.  But the NRC played hard ball—they did not approve a single request that had not been requested. Not a single one.

The subject line of the NRC’s letter approving the delay read “Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3 – Relaxation of Response Due Dates Regarding Flooding Hazard Reevaluations for Recommendation 2.1 of the Near-Term Task Force Review of the Insights from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident.”

Our Takeaway

With so much relaxing going on, sales of recliners and hammocks must be soaring. Hence, investing in La-Z-Boy and hammock vendors might be a good thing. Investing in leak-tight doors and flood walls and other safety features seems way premature at this point.

The NRC and the nuclear industry is fond of saying that safety is their top priority.

But actions need to back up such boasts rather than inactions.

(Source: D. Lochbaum)

(Source: D. Lochbaum)

I worked in the nuclear industry for over 17 years before joining UCS. In 1981, Browns Ferry plant manager Herb Abercrombie (left) and TVA Manager of Power Hugh Parris (right) presented me (middle) the Best Idea Award and a wristwatch. My idea wasn’t some new way to better protect members of the public or plant workers. My idea was how to revise how we conducted a test during each refueling outage to shorten their durations and, most importantly, allow more electricity to be generated and sold.

I know of many colleagues who received awards and bonuses from plant owners for similar, or better, ideas of ways to boost profits.


“Fission Stories” is a weekly feature by Dave Lochbaum. For more information on nuclear power safety, see the nuclear safety section of UCS’s website and our interactive map, the Nuclear Power Information Tracker.