The debate about the future of nuclear power has fired up again. Just a few months after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, many countries are taking very different stances on what they think of nuclear. Japan has reaffirmed its nuclear commitment, the U.S. appears to be in support on a national level even as projects falter, while Germany and Switzerland appear to have given up on nuclear altogether.
All of this debate got started by one freak natural disaster that is a once-in-a-lifetime event, right?
The destruction in Joplin, Mo., should make us question whether there is anywhere a nuclear plant would be safe from a natural disaster. At the rate things are going, the locations that can be described as "disaster free" are becoming few and far between. For General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , Toshiba, and Siemens (NYSE: SI ) to keep building plants, they need to find locations that are safe for nuclear.
Huffing, puffing, and blowing the plant down
If we just look at the U.S., safe locations are tough to find. The South and Great Plains should be quick to eliminate from consideration: Hurricane Katrina, Tornado Alley. 'Nuff said. The West Coast can also be eliminated because of regular earthquakes. Areas of the East Coast aren't exactly known for disastrous weather, but it doesn't take long to look up stories of hurricanes destroying areas as far north as New York as recently as 2009.
Living in Minnesota, I would like to think that we're relatively isolated from major natural disasters barring a regular flood here and there. But when a tornado ran through north Minneapolis on Sunday, I got to thinking that maybe this shouldn't be a hot spot for nuclear power.
The upper Midwest is probably the best place for a nuclear plant, but it's also not incredibly populated and we have plenty of safe wind power going up around here. People may not want a wind turbine in their backyard, but a nuclear plant certainly isn't more acceptable.
Is anywhere really safe?
Nuclear advocates will argue that past nuclear disasters are freak events that aren't likely to happen again. But like financial crises (that shouldn't happen based on risk management), they happen regularly.
If new plants aren't built and old plants are decommissioned (as some countries are planning), business for suppliers such as Cameco (NYSE: CCJ ) , Uranium Energy (NYSE: UEC ) , and Uranerz Energy (NYSE: URZ ) will slowly go down the tubes.
If it weren't for natural disasters and those pesky nuclear meltdowns, I would say the future of nuclear was brighter. But unless you know a place where natural disasters never hit, I think the lights are slowly going out.