The nuclear sector stands a bit taller on the heels of President Obama nominating Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the National Security Council's top nuclear proliferation and defense policy official, to be deputy secretary of energy. For a nuclear sector that has been severely kicked to the curb post-Fukushima with spot uranium prices at $28.25 per pound, or 60% below levels seen in early 2011, investors in uranium may be relieved that Obama is replacing one nuclear expert in Daniel Poneman, who is stepping down after five years, with another prominent nuclear figure in Sherwood-Randall.
Sherwood-Randall's chief task will be to oversee the nuclear complex, overhaul nuclear laboratories and explore ways to lower the country's nuclear weapons arsenal. So we have an Energy Secretary in Ernie Moniz who is committed to lowering carbon, and now there is an expected deputy secretary who is laser-focused on nuclear security. A nice one-two combination that could make uranium miners look attractive to investors
Uranium miners may benefit
Considering Sherwood-Randall's expected role to balance our weapons stockpile and the country's nuclear materials, the uranium supply shortage in the U.S. and the greater need for technology to advance nuclear power may now finally get much more focused attention from the Department of Energy. That bodes well for uranium miners since nuclear power emits no carbon emissions and can operate 24/7, two very important items to remember in an increasingly sustainable society.
Cameco (NYSE:CCJ) has publicly stated its desire to acquire assets that are more near term when it comes to production, so investors may want to keep an eye on Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSEMKT:UEC), which is producing uranium from its Palangana mine in South Texas.
Those looking to play uranium through the ETF may also find the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSEMKT:URA) a good place to allocate capital for the longer term.
The fact the U.S. produces only 4 million domestic pounds of uranium per year while importing over 55 million pounds may need to be reexamined under a microscope by Sherwood-Randall, especially since our uranium imports far exceed our dependence on foreign oil, so this certainly falls under an issue of national security. Any renewed focus on the importance of nuclear power in the U.S. may finally put a bottom in on the spot price of uranium and help depressed valuations of miners in the sector.
Sherwood-Randall revamping the nation's nuclear labs may end up being the big story here and a huge victory for R&D in the sector since innovation will likely play a much bigger role in the future of safe nuclear power. From the evolution of small modular reactors, using waste as a catalyst for fuel or even tapping thorium, a material that is fertile and cannot sustain nuclear fission itself, advances in modern technology are making the future world of nuclear power much different today with enormous focus on safety and non-proliferation. That seems to be why Sherwood-Randall got the nod from Obama.
Therefore at a time when Moniz is committed to reducing carbon output in the U.S., the focus on nuclear safety seems like natural fit as nuclear energy seems strongly positioned to now play an even bigger role in our nation's energy mix.