I told you what was going to happen.
I even reminded you back in July.
Japan is NOT giving up on nuclear.
The bottom line is that those with the purse strings to dictate policy want nuclear back. And that's exactly what they're getting.
The last time I told you about this, I wrote that a very powerful business lobby in Japan argued that businesses couldn't handle any possible disruptions in power output — particularly at a time when the economy is under such intense pressure.
It doesn't matter that Japan did survive peak summer and winter energy demand with little or no nuclear power online — because you need more than one year's worth of data to verify Japan can go on without nuclear.
Truth is I don't know if Japan could survive with or without nuclear. There's certainly a case to be made either way.
But at the end of the day, it all boils down to the gatekeepers at the top of the policy food chain. And no amount of student demonstrations will dissuade Japan's head honchos from firing up those nuclear power stations.
Politicians Love Wiggle Room
This week Japan will set a national energy policy.
And here's a shocker: Economics Minister Motohisa Furukawa told reporters the government had not taken any particular position regarding the role of nuclear power.
But here's where it gets interesting...
Until recently, the current government had been subtly suggesting it would set a date for eliminating nuclear power by 2030.
But just one week before the new national energy policy was set to be released, Furukawa said that the government is considering three options:
Reduce nuclear power to zero as soon as possible
Aim for 15% by 2030
Seek a 20%-25% percent share by 2030
This leaves a lot of wiggle room.
And all of the above tell me Japan has no intention of putting its nuclear power industry to bed.
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Next Stop: Thorium
Of course, even as Japan lays the groundwork to slowly and strategically revive its nuclear power industry (mostly behind closed doors), it's growth in emerging markets that continue to greet hungry investors.
And interestingly, it looks like a lot of this new growth in nuclear is being facilitated by both traditional and non-traditional technologies...
While China and India continue to build nuclear power plants like we build ghost town malls, both nations are upping the ante by seeking out nuclear fuel breakthroughs that can not only make nuclear safer, but more profitable as well.
Although you will get no better capacity factor than what nuclear offers, that capacity factor comes with a sizable price tag. And without significant government support, it's very difficult to make work.
Of course, this is of little concern for India and China right now. But at some point, both nations will need to enable significant cost reductions so the industry doesn't become an economic burden, much in the way it is here in the United States.
So it comes as no surprise that both countries are getting aggressive in nuclear fuels technology...
Right now, we're extremely bullish on this new beryllium-based nuclear fuel that can reduce nuclear waste and virtually eliminate the threat of meltdowns.
We're also starting to dust off our thorium textbooks, as this could be another way to play the race to develop economically superior nuclear fuels.
India actually announced this year that it would begin construction on its first 300 megawatt thorium reactor in 2016.
For those of you who have been bullish on thorium, this power plant could open the flood gates on a fuel that, as a resource, is incredibly abundant throughout the world.
Thorium can also enable a decrease in the volume of spent nuclear fuel by as much as two-thirds, and of course drastically reduce the possibility that weapons-grade material could result from the process.
Another benefit thorium bulls often boast is the thorium fuel cycle can be used to dispose of existing plutonium stockpiles.
Now I fully admit, I'm not an expert in thorium. There are plenty of folks who could offer a lot more clarity on the advantages and even disadvantages of thorium, so please feel free to use the comments section below to add your two cents.
As the demand for nuclear continues to grow, we'll delve further into the world of thorium, as this could prove to be an opportunity whose time has finally come.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...
@JeffSiegel on Twitter
Jeff is the managing editor of Energy and Capital and contributing analyst for the Energy Investor, an independent investment research service focusing primarily on stocks in the oil & gas, modern energy and infrastructure markets. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor's page.
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