It was with peaceful intent that the first uranium atom was split in a European lab while the world was on the brink of World War II...
Otto Hahn, working with several other scientists, discovered nuclear fission in 1938, after years of researching how to harness energy from radioactive elements. The vision was a powerful energy source like nothing ever seen before.
But then global war broke out, and the world's focus shifted. Intentions became nefarious. In the United States, the Manhattan Project developed nuclear reactions from uranium and plutonium. A darker side of the power was shown in August 1945 when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit with the first atomic bombs.
No, nuclear weapons are not gone for good...
Right now, nine nations have nuclear weapons capabilities.
But the world saw what sort of responsibility came with such a powerful energy source, and so Hahn's peaceful vision returned.
Today, 30 nations have nuclear power reactors, and 56 nations have research reactors.
In 2016, 13 nations used nuclear power to supply at least 25% of their electricity.
Nuclear power hasn't even begun to peak...
Right now, there are 60 nuclear power plants being constructed by 15 different countries.
This is enhanced by the climate change crisis that plagues the world. In 2015, the United Nations declared that in order to avoid disastrous results, the climate cannot rise more than 2 degrees Celsius in this century.
To ensure this, the UN set a target for minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By 2050, in order to avoid a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius, GHG emissions must be reduced by 70%.
Nuclear can get us there.
Fossil fuels have high emissions. Natural gas emissions are lower than some, but they still have emissions. But some renewable sources are too expensive to match the cost-efficiency of conventional sources.
Nuclear power is cheaper than conventional power — and it has zero emissions.
Naturally, it makes sense for governments to pursue it.
A Worldwide Phenomenon
As I said before, 30 nations across the globe have nuclear reactors. Those 30 nations are accountable for a total of 449 nuclear reactors and a total capacity of 390,000 MWe.
But plenty more nations have either planned or proposed reactors that are expected to be online by 2030. There are currently 60 reactors under construction.
The World-Nuclear Association writes:
World Energy Outlook 2014 had a special focus on nuclear power, and extends the scope of scenarios to 2040. In its New Policies scenario, installed nuclear capacity growth is 60% through 543 GWe in 2030 and to 624 GWe in 2040 out of a total of 10,700 GWe, with the increase concentrated heavily in China (46% of it), plus India, Korea and Russia (30% of it together) and the USA (16%), countered by a 10% drop in the EU.... Low-Nuclear and so-called High-Nuclear cases give 366 and 767 GWe nuclear respectively in 2040.
Assuming that currently operating reactors remain online, the total global nuclear capacity will more than triple its current capacity in just 18 years.
Even now, though only 30 nations have operating nuclear power reactors, many more countries actually use that power through imports.
In the summer of 2011, Italians overwhelmingly opposed an administrative plan to build nuclear reactors in their country. Yet, the nation still gets 10% of its power from nuclear.
And officials in Denmark have long opposed bringing reactors to their nation. But the country also imports enough nuclear power to satisfy 3–4% of its needs.
Electricity isn't the only thing that's benefited by nuclear...
There are also about 250 research reactors in 55 nations that are used for the research and production of isotopes for the medical and industrial fields. A number of marine vessels are propelled by nuclear power, and Russia has a fleet of icebreakers that are powered by nuclear energy.
Your Chance to Invest
After all that, the following may sound painfully obvious: This is a profitable industry.
Nuclear has barely been around for 75 years. It's young. And that means it hasn't even started to reach its full potential.
With climate change being a major issue for many governments, officials need to find a faster way than solar or wind to generate power and cut down on emissions.
Besides, nuclear power prices average $15 per megawatt-hour. That's less than half the total average power prices.
And all you need to do is look at the numbers to see how high the demand really is...
This could be the next big industry.
The following are some of the major companies that are involved in nuclear power production. This includes uranium companies (the element that enables nuclear reactions), utilities, and companies that build nuclear reactors.
AREVA SA (OTC: ARVCF)
In 2013, there were eight companies that mined 82% of the world's uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association.
AREVA was one of them — mining 15% of the world's uranium that year. The company works to reduce the level of carbon involved in power generation and focuses mostly on nuclear but also on moving into the renewable energy sector.
The French government currently owns 87% of AREVA and bought out minority shareholders in a January 2017 buyout. The government plans to put about $4.8 billion into AREVA, which will let the company focus on nuclear fuel production and recycling.
Cameco Corporation (TSX: CCO)(NYSE: CCJ)
Canada-based Cameco also mined 9,144 tons of uranium — 15% of the world's total supply — in 2013, with operations in Kazakhstan and Australia and a heavy focus in Saskatchewan, Canada.
The company has developed technology that enables it to safely extract the high-grade ore in the Canadian mines and control radiation exposure. It also produces power from four nuclear power plants in Ontario through its 31.6% share of the Bruce Power partnership.
Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC)
Exelon is the biggest nuclear power plant utility in the U.S. The company owns and operates the most nuclear plants in the U.S. with 23 reactors in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It generates more than 20% of the nation's total nuclear power.
It has between 1,175 and 1,300 megawatts of updates planned through 2017, and it boasts that 1,300 megawatts of nuclear could eliminate 6 million metric tons of annual GHG emissions. Roughly 55% of its electricity generation comes from nuclear.
After it merged with Constellation Energy in 2012, Exelon's resale and wholesale capabilities and customer base all expanded significantly while it simultaneously cut operating and maintenance expenses.
Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR)
Entergy's sector Entergy Nuclear is among one of the leading nuclear utilities in the U.S.
Entergy has nearly 9,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity, and the company is part of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) Industry Alliance Limited. In conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), it is working on the next generation of nuclear plants for the world. It was also "the first U.S. utility to voluntarily commit to stabilizing its greenhouse gas emissions."
These are just the major players. There are plenty more companies involved in uranium mining, nuclear construction, reactor operations, power sales, and endless other operations that contribute to nuclear power production.
Since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, safety has become a top priority. The disaster has lead to even more updates and breakthroughs in technology that could change the face of nuclear and turn it into the future of energy.