Nuclear advocates point out that the much-maligned form of energy production is actually one of the safest out there. And, importantly, nuclear energy production has a virtually nonexistent carbon footprint. It’s a highly efficient form of climate-friendly energy production, and yet it’s still a hard sell. Nuclear power plants are being decommissioned around the world, and have particularly fallen out of favor in the United States. But nuclear still has a lot of fans who make a lot of compelling points, and they are intent on making themselves heard.
While high-profile nuclear disasters like Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi, and Three Mile Island loom large in the public consciousness, and the long half-life of radioactive nuclear waste is a hard pill to swallow, nuclear energy actually kills far fewer people than fossil fuels.
“Coal power is estimated to kill around 350 times as many people per terawatt-hour of energy produced, mostly from air pollution, compared to nuclear power,” as CNET is quick to point out.
Already, nuclear energy has played a huge role in avoiding carbon emissions over the last 50 years.
In fact, it’s second only to hydropower in this arena.
“Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source that has avoided about 74Gt of CO2 emissions over this period, nearly two years’ worth of total global energy-related emissions,” a recent UN report stated.
Although nuclear has yet to be widely adopted as a major part of the global response to climate change, there are plenty of nuclear advocates who believe that the nuclear revolution is just around the corner, and they want to get in on the ground floor. Indeed, new swaths of investors and buyers interested in the future of nuclear energy have recently sent uranium prices through the roof.
It’s a story of intrigue, stockpiling, and Reddit.
A Canadian physical uranium trust is largely to blame for the recent surge in uranium prices and demand.
Toronto-based Sprott Asset Management opened their doors just a couple months ago in July, and rapidly set about snapping up enormous physical quantities of yellowcake uranium.
“The fund has amassed almost 25 million pounds of the metal since it was first launched in July and bought 850,000 pounds on one day alone last week,” MarketWatch reported on September 13.
This is a truly astronomical quantity when you compare it to the total mined supply of uranium in the entire world, which stood at approximately 120 million pounds in 2019, according to figures from the World Nuclear Association.
This buying frenzy has sent the price of raw uranium through the roof, shooting up 60% to a nine-year high in the months since Sprott launched.
Now, Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets, the very same online community that launched previously failing GameStop stocks into the stratosphere and turned markets on their heads earlier this year, is jumping on the uranium bandwagon and buying up shares of uranium mining companies. The subreddit is currently abuzz with threads about the tight uranium market and the massive potential for growth as nuclear expands to meet increasing demand for clean energy against the backdrop of climate change.
Earlier this summer, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it’s 6th Assessment Report on the state of global warming and announced a “code red for humanity.” Worldwide we have passed a point of no return, irreversibly altering weather patterns. But there is still a slim window of time to mitigate those effects and avoid catastrophic climate change. There is no silver bullet solution to cleaning up the global energy industry overnight. In order to meet emissions goals, all low-carbon options will have to be included and expanded. Nuclear, for all its struggles and bad optics, will likely be an integral piece of that puzzle.