Germans are Right to Ditch Nuclear Power

Montreal, Canada

First the Swiss decided to ban nuclear power. Now the Germans will do the same.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, perhaps pandering to the rising tide of Green voters in that country, supported legislation to ban 17 power plants by 2022. Nuclear energy is responsible for 25% of Germany’s electricity. The news surprised the markets.

Yesterday’s announcement jolted alternative energy stocks with solar by far the biggest beneficiary.

One of my favorite solar stocks, Germany’s Solar World AG (Frankfurt-SWV), rallied almost 9% on Monday and is up another 1% on Tuesday. The company has a good balance sheet, makes money and raised its dividend in the first quarter. It also trades at book value.

In Toronto, shares of the world’s largest uranium producer, Cameco (TSX-CCO) fell more than 3%. But with New York shuttered for Memorial Day yesterday, the odds are pretty good we might see some follow-through selling this morning as investors return to their offices.

Despite the growing chorus against nuclear power since the unbelievably tragic events in Japan in March, nuclear energy won’t disappear. It’s already a big slice of the world’s energy pie at roughly 11% of total power production and growing markedly in China and India. Unlike Europe, which does harbor a Green propensity, the Chinese really don’t care about the environment; nuclear power will continue to grow.

Supporters of nuclear energy also point out how the U.S. Navy – and other navies – power most of their fleets with nuclear fuel. There hasn’t been a spill in years, although a Russian submarine did sink a few years ago and we still don’t know if any radiation leaked. I bet it did.

It makes me feel a lot better that the fish I regularly consume is hostage to an aircraft carrier or a submarine leaking nuclear fuel. We all know it’s only a matter of time until the Big One happens somewhere in our vast oceans.

The wildcard, of course, is that what can go wrong will go wrong – awfully wrong – when nuclear power goes rogue.

We really don’t know the full implications of the Fukushima nuclear fallout. We do know that most Japanese food production — including dairy and agricultural crops in the north — have been heavily contaminated by radiation. And the government is not telling the public the full story.

Personally, I think the Swiss and the Germans are right to ban nuclear power. I’m an energy bull but I don’t subscribe to nuclear power. And the only reason why I don’t is because if something goes wrong it destroys everything in its path.

Other accidents will surely follow and we’ll continue to destroy our environment, contaminate already declining food production and poison ourselves with cancer. Unfortunately, most people don’t care.

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