Fukushima shockwaves hit America’s nuclear renaissance.
Dan Scotto is president and chief investment officer at Whitehall Financial Advisors. Previously he was an analyst at BNP Paribas and Bear Stearns before that.
Radiation leaks from Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant following the March 11, 2011, 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami have had a chilling effect on the global nuclear industry, forcing investors and governments to re-examine their energy policies.
In the United States, the Fukushima crisis prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct an immediate review of 27 operating reactors (out of the 104 currently running), thereby raising the specter of costly modifications to the aging facilities (average age 20 years) and a redesign of plants on the drawing board.
Several countries, including Italy, Germany, France, India, and even China, have imposed temporary moratoriums on nuclear reactor construction. Until a post-mortem analysis of Fukushima-Daiichi is completed, the global nuclear industry will continue to face the possibility that operating plants might have design defects. It’s conceivable that both operating plants and those under construction could require additional major capital expenditures in order to comply with any new regulations.
The financial markets find nothing more distasteful than uncertainty (you don’t know what you don’t know). What we do know is that a number of plants were designed to withstand earthquakes of 7.0 to 7.5—as much as two orders of magnitude smaller than the March 11 quake.