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, eight nations have nuclear weapons capability.
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; 14% of the world's power comes from nuclear; and 56 nations have research reactors.
Nuclear power hasn't even begun to peak...
Right now, under-construction reactors have the capability to add 17% to existing capacity, and planned reactors could add an additional 49%.
This is enhanced by the climate change crisis that plagues the world. The United Nations recently declared that in order to avoid disastrous results, the climate cannot rise more than two 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 above two 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 there are still 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 government's to pursue it.
A Worldwide Phenomenon
As I said before, 30 nations across the globe have nuclear reactors. Those 30 nations account for a total of 435 nuclear reactors and a total capacity of 374,108 MWe.
But plenty more nations have either planned or proposed reactors expected to be online by 2030. There are 71 reactors under construction with a combined capacity of 65,139 MWe; 167 are planned for a total capacity of 184,415 MWe, and 317 are proposed — with a total expected capacity of 359,655 MWe.
Assuming currently operating reactors remain online, that would bring total global nuclear capacity to 983,317 MWe by 2030. That's nearly triple the capacity in just 18 years.
Even now, though only 30 nations have operating nuclear power reactors, many more actually use that power through imports.
In the summer of 2011, Italians overwhelmingly opposed an administrative plan to build nuclear reactors in the 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 10% of its needs.
Electricity isn't the only thing benefited by nuclear...
There are also research reactors in 56 nations, used for 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 with nuclear energy.
Your Chance to Invest
After all that, this may sound painfully obvious: This is a profitable industry.
Nuclear has hardly been around for 75 years. It's young. And that means it hasn't even started to reach its full potential...
With climate change 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 demand really is...
This could be the next big industry.
Here are some of the major companies involved in nuclear power production. This includes uranium companies (the element that enables nuclear reactions), utilities, and companies that build nuclear reactors.
AREVA SA (EPA: AREVA)
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 focuses on reducing the level of carbon involved in power generation, focusing mostly on nuclear, but also starting a move into the renewable energy sector.
The company's main mines are in Canada, Kazakhstan, and Niger, with a number of projects under development in Africa. And though it's one of the biggest companies in nuclear mining, its nuclear activities don't stop there...
AREVA also designs and constructs nuclear reactors, a sector that brought in 37% of the company's revenue in 2011, and its subsidiary AREVA Med, based in the U.S., is involved in nuclear medicine research.
Cameco Corporation (TSE: CCO, NYSE: CCJ)
Canada-based Cameco also mined 9144 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 enabling 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 United States. The company owns and operates ten plants and 17 reactors in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, generating 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 merging with Constellation Energy in 2012, Exelon's resale and wholesale capabilities and customer base all expanded significantly while simultaneously cutting operating and maintenance expenses.
Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR)
Entergy Corporation's sector Entergy Nuclear owns 12 nuclear reactors across the U.S. It is among the nation's leading nuclear utilities.
Entergy Corporation has 10,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity, and the company is part of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance Limited. In conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory, it is working on the next generation of nuclear plants for the world.
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 — leading to even more updates and breakthroughs in technology that could change the face of nuclear... and turn it into the future of energy.