We’ve recently passed the 1-year checkpoint of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there’s no sign this war is going to end anytime soon. As the boycott of Russian energy sources continues, Western countries are seeking alternative ways to satisfy their energy needs. Europe’s current solution is importing oil from other countries, such as Brazil, Angola, and UAE. However, EU countries are uneasy about replacing reliance on Russia with reliance on other countries’ fossil fuels. That’s why the EU is considering the idea of allowing the comeback of nuclear plants as the continent’s leading energy generators. So, is this the time to invest in nuclear energy?
My name is Ofir Bar, an investor with about 25 years of experience in worldwide markets. To tell you the truth, for many years I myself have been uneasy about the fact that Western countries rely energy-wise so badly on countries with which they have tensed relations. Can Europe cease its dependency on Russian energy sources? Will we see more and more nuclear reactors powering up the continent? Let’s dive in.
It’s not just about the Chernobyl trauma
In the first days of the war, oil prices skyrocketed to rates that hadn’t been witnessed since the 2008 crisis. This led to extreme inflation at already sensitive times, as Europe’s economy was recovering from COVID’s collateral damage. OPEC eventually succeeded in reducing and stabilizing oil prices, but Europe still learned the lesson: It mustn’t rely on energy sources from countries outside Europe. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a consensus in Europe about a full shift to atomic energy.
Nuclear energy, at first glance, indeed seems like an attractive alternative to Russian oil: By harnessing small amounts of Uranium, a nuclear reactor can generate immense energy — in a ratio that seems almost unimaginable. Also, as long as the process of energy generation goes as it should, uranium refineries are way more eco-friendly than fossil fuel refineries.
However, truth be told, Europe is still traumatized by the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986. This remains the main reason for nuclear energy’s awful public relations. I claim it’s not a matter of rationale, but of fear: Nuclear energy, when generated safely, can power Europe efficiently till the EU completes the transformation to renewable energy. However, the EU still prefers using fossil fuels that are highly polluting no matter what — as it is slowly foot-dragging itself toward renewable energy. One heck of a trauma, is it not? That said, I believe there’s more to it.
Misinformation and interests
Let’s be realistic — it’s not just the Chernobyl trauma that deters Europe from shifting toward nuclear energy. There’s a lot of misinformation and interests involved, too.
People originating from developed countries naturally tend to be more environmentally aware. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are surrounded by rock-solid truths. Many European green movements, which are quite influential, strongly oppose using nuclear energy once again. However, what are the current alternatives? Generating power from natural gas and other fossil fuels is much more polluting. But that’s not all.
Needless to mention, the petrol lobbyists are not very fond of the idea of nuclear power plants — and no government can ignore their interests and influence. In addition, it’s important to remember that constructing nuclear power plants is costly and that no country truly wants them on its territories.
All these combine into a reality in which it is difficult to make the shift toward nuclear energy. However, the energy crisis following the Russian evasion has forced Europe to rethink its conduct energy-wise despite all the objections.
The only likely path to Net-Zero
Politicians tend to do the right thing only when they feel they have no other viable choice. That’s the main reason I believe that nuclear energy is set to get a much bigger cut of the European energy market in the not-so-far future. Combined with the effects of the recession, it’s not surprising that more and more people choose to invest in nuclear energy.
Truth be told, reaching the Net-Zero objective without harming the European standard of living is not likely to happen without embracing nuclear energy. That’s why I believe investing in it may be an interesting idea for ambitious investors.