Twelve years ago, a catastrophic event made headlines around the world, and now it’s in the news again.  But there’s one important difference: 12 years ago, millions were frightened by what could happen; now they’re frightened by what is happening.  

  All of this started when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Fukushima, Japan.  The quake caused horrific damage to the region, but the worst of it was at a nuclear power plant.  The reactors shut down as they were supposed to, but the generators fueling the cooling system lost power and that led to three nuclear meltdowns.  As a result, the power plant became highly toxic and a million tons of water became contaminated.  

Since then, Japan has stored this contaminated water in the plant and treated it slowly.  But now they are running out of storage space and is expected to release this radioactive water back into the Pacific Ocean.

Is this plan safe?  Probably.  Still, no one knows for sure, and apparently there is no alternative.  Very soon Japan in particular, Asia in general and by extension much of the rest of the world will learn a lesson in science that they may not want to.  

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), the company that owns the Fukushima power plant and is in charge of the cleanup activities there, claims they have reduced the amount of radioactive waste in the water to a safe level with one exception: tritium.  This is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that can cause disease in humans if large quantities are ingested.

Safety First

TEPCO says they cannot remove all the tritium.  However, they believe the quantity is so small that it would not be harmful.  

But not everyone is as confident.  According to reporter Roman Balmakov, a respected journalist at The Epoch Times and host of the show Facts Matter, “Despite their claims and efforts, there’s no scientific consensus on whether this is safe or not.”    

The Pacific Ocean is humongous.  Still, if large quantities of radioactivity are released into it for a prolonged time they could enter the food chain through plankton and kelp and subsequently contaminate some fish.  

Radioactive caesium and plutonium have already been found in seals and porpoises as far away as the Irish Sea.  Despite that, according to, “radiation levels in the seawater were minute and pose no health risk.”  In fact, “The WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) is no longer monitoring ocean water for radioactivity after the Fukushima incident.”     

After the meltdown, it was believed that a large area around the power plant would be uninhabitable for at least 100 years, according to CNN.  But thanks to the massive cleanup and decontamination efforts, some residents have been allowed to return to their homes.  

So there’s reason to hope this is not the nightmare scenario so many people had feared.  And the Japanese government said, “this is the best way to deal with tritium and trace amounts of other nucleotides in the water,” reports.    

A 180 Degree Turn

After the meltdown, the future of nuclear power looked bleak - and that’s putting it mildly.  People were open minded to almost all sources of power – anything but nuclear.    

But the choice was not quite that simple.  Fossil fuels worked, but they released harmful emissions; renewable energy was clean but came with drawbacks.  Neither sun nor wind could provide on-demand power 24/7 every week.  According to Regen Power, “Solar energy and wind are unpredictable.”  And there are additional problems with renewables.  Their efficiency is low, start-up costs are high, and they require a great deal of space.  

The combination of these factors prompted The Washington Post, a left-leaning publication, to print an article with the following title: “California Is Awash In Renewable Energy – Except When It’s Needed Most.”

A Change Of Heart

While economies focused on renewables, nuclear was becoming safer.  The GIS Reports Online writes that nuclear power is already much safer than fossil fuels; recent innovations could make it even better.  For example, some designs can be powered by nuclear wastes.  More important, the newest nuclear power plants eliminate the risk of a meltdown!  

Industrial Nations Climb Aboard

As of the end of 2020, there were at least 443 nuclear power plants up and running worldwide, and as many as 200 more were either in the planning or construction stages.  China, Russia, and even oil-producer UAE are among the countries using or planning to use this technology.

Meanwhile, new Generation IV reactors, which will have an output of 1,000 megawatts, are being developed by 13 of the largest industrial nations.  They will be more efficient, produce less radioactive waste, and be even safer. 

The meltdown at Fukushima was a disaster for Japan, and the ripple effects in the aftermath spread to the entire nuclear power industry, driving shares lower and delaying or canceling plans to build more plants.

But with the incentives of lower prices, growing demand for clean power and improved designs the industry has gradually recovered.  Shares in companies that built and operated plants bounced back and so did the price of uranium.

This was great news for many miners and among them Cameco, the world’s largest publicly-traded uranium company.  Its shares spent much of the decade following the Fukushima meltdown in the high single digits and very low teens.  In March 2020, the price dropped to $6.92.  However, the share price has rallied since then and recently was trading in the $28 range.

Shares of numerous small miners out West, in Canada, and Australia also did very well – certainly not all of them, but enough to peak investor interest.  

Ultimately, the world will likely get most of its power from solar, wind, or other sources that will provide clean and affordable energy.  But we’re not quite at that point yet.  Until we get there, fossil fuels will continue to be part of our lives and so will nuclear.  

The UK is learning this lesson the hard way.  For years, they were reluctant to promote nuclear power.  Now, during a cold spell, citizens are being urged to shut dryers, TVs, electric ovens, and the like to ease the risk of blackouts.

For decades, many energy companies helped power our cities, factories. and farms; they also generated huge returns for shareholders.  Very likely going forward, some will continue to be top performers. Demand is growing and savvy investors and entrepreneurs will certainly find opportunities out there.  


Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.