As we noted on multiple occasions throughout the year, 2008 was no cakewalk for Cameco (NYSE:CCJ). The Canadian nuclear powerhouse had sort of a kitchen-sink year, with all kinds of things going awry.

That said, the full-year results proved surprisingly resilient. Revenue lifted 24%, adjusted earnings per share were up 8%, and cash provided by operations came in 12% below the prior year's level. In other words, all quiet on the financial front.

The company's outlook for 2009 is equally important. Given that nuclear utilities like Exelon (NYSE:EXC) are well stocked with uranium, there has been little or no discretionary buying on the spot market. Cameco clearly anticipates further softness in the spot price.

But that's OK -- it connects to one of the key reasons I dubbed Cameco the nuclear option in mid-2008. The company's long-term contracts with utilities -- an investment-grade group that may top even Transocean's (NYSE:RIG) client list -- largely shield it from spot price volatility. Cash flow should thus far exceed Cameco's roughly C$320 million outlay for growth and sustaining capital in 2009.

Cameco can afford to remain calm, and it doesn't need to sit on its hands, either. Given that the company expects about 100 new reactors to pop up within the next 10 years, it actually has plenty of incentive to get busy on the exploration and development front.

With a new Australian-Chinese uranium export channel open, Cameco is understandably active in the land down under. Western Australia is quickly abandoning its anti-mining stance, and Cameco has purchased a major asset from Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP) in response. BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) has restarted a dormant project there as well.

As for the flagship Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan, which gives the whole uranium market a jolt every time it floods, there's not much light at the end of the tunnel today. A tunnel, in fact, is believed to be the source of the latest water inflow, and sealing it will take the better part of 2009. Cameco says it no longer expects production in 2011. The company will probably get this thing going sometime in the next decade, but I wouldn't model it into my near-to-medium term production expectations.

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