As the Obama administration and other governments give the green light to the nuclear industry, investors are pouring into nuclear exchange traded funds (ETFs) in an attempt to capitalize on the surge in alternative-energy initiatives.
The White House has guaranteed more than $8 billion in loan guarantees for funding construction of two new nuclear reactors, and Richard Phillips, senior index analyst at New York-based S-Network, says that around the world "there are more than 200 new nuclear reactors under order, and many more are expected to come," as stated in IndexUniverse.
ETFs are a cheap and efficient way for investors to gain exposure to nuclear energy plays since ETFs cover the industry and avoid individual stock risk. There are currently three nuclear global-equity ETF plays:
- PowerShares Global Nuclear (PKN)
- Market Vectors Nuclear Energy (NLR)
- iShares S&P Global Nuclear Energy (NUCL)
NLR holds companies that produce at least half of their revenues from nuclear-energy businesses, with a focus on small companies. PKN and NUCL hold larger companies. PKN also includes companies that mine uranium and service power plants. NUCL has a 70% weighting in large- and giant-caps, mostly concentrated in utilities. PKN has 63 holdings, NUCL has 25 and NLR has 24.
The U.S. Energy Department awarded Toshiba Corp's Westinghouse Electric Co. and San Diego-based General Atomics $20 million each for the conceptual design and planning work for the next generation of nuclear power reactors, according to Reuters. The designs may be built into a demonstration reactor, which would be capable of producing electricity and process heat for industrial applications.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is providing extensions for some first-generation plants to run 20 years beyond the original license periods, reports Peter Behr for The New York Times. However, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has said that the nuclear industry must be vigilant in guarding against "distractions and complacency" in meeting safety and security goals.
NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has commented that the renewed interested in nuclear power is dependent upon the reliability of the current nuclear plants, and any major nuclear foul up would bring nuclear advancement to a halt.