When Snoozing Becomes Alarming

Security provider Wackenhut got into some serious hot water earlier this year, after shocking video depicted security guards sleeping on the job at Exelon's (NYSE: EXC  ) Peach Bottom nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania.

Wackenhut lost many of its contracts with Exelon, this country's Duke of Nukes, following the incident. But Wackenhut's fate is less important to us than the matter of nuclear security.

The case for nuclear power generation is certainly gaining steam. Early this year, the United Kingdom approved a new generation of nuclear plants. Global orders are robust for the likes of Areva and Shaw Group (NYSE: SGR  ) , while Huaneng Power (NYSE: HNP  ) is developing its own unique reactor technology for energy-constrained China. For a company like Aluminum Corp of China (NYSE: ACH  ) , such a development couldn't come soon enough -- power shortages forced that company to slash output at two plants early this year.

It's taken a long time, as well as a big rise in the cost and demand for energy, for the nuclear-power industry to shake off past safety scares such as the one that occurred at Three Mile Island -- a plant that, incidentally, applied for a 20-year license renewal for the unit that didn't experience a partial meltdown. If operators can't figure out how to keep their security guards awake, we may have to hit the snooze button on the nuclear renaissance.

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Prashant Rathore updated this article, originally written by Toby Shute and published on Jan. 11, 2008. Prashant has no financial interest in the companies mentioned above. The Fool's disclosure policy is never asleep on the job.


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