Is It Ethical to Invest in Nuclear Power?

Feb 6, 2012 12:54 PM ET
Campaign: CSR Blogs

Posted by Reynard Loki

"I wish we had found the courage to speak out earlier against nuclear power. -- Masahito Hirose, an 81-year-old survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki, speaking after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster[1]

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March of last year, the nuclear energy industry took a big hit. By June, the stock price of plant operator TEPCO plunged 91 percent, losing 3.2 trillion yen (USD 40 billion) in market value. Germany and Switzerland both announced plans to phase out nuclear energy.[2]

There will be no similar decision made in the United States, where nuclear power supplies almost of a fifth of the nation's energy, generated by over 100 commercial reactors located primarily in the northeast and southeast regions. The US is the world's largest commercial nuclear power supplier.[3]

The Atlanta-based utility Southern Company, which serves 4.2 million customers in the southeast with over 42 GW of generating capacity, is constructing two nuclear power plants expected to be online in 2016 and 2017. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the governmental agency that regulates America's nuclear power, is expected to approve the application during a vote scheduled for February 9. They will be the first nuclear units to be built in the United States in 25 years.[4][5][6]


"Nuclear power across the world is the only current means of economically generating the enormous demands," writes David Gillies, contributing editor of ETF Digest in a recent commentary on The Street, suggesting the Global X Uranium ETF (URA), which tracks the Solactive Global Uranium Index as "perhaps the best way for investors to have exposure to renewed growth of nuclear power." Gillies asserts, "Safe nuclear power is making a comeback."[7]

But ethical investors are likely to pay no mind to such proclamations. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment has a very clear position when in comes to investing in nuclear energy. The Washington, DC-based non-profit membership group, which supports socially responsible and sustainable investing, says that one way to engage in ethical investing is to "[d]ivert investments away from institutions or businesses that...produce nuclear weapons or nuclear power."[8]

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Reynard is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A former media executive with 15 years experience in the private and non-profit sectors, Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio that explores transnational progressivism, neo-nomadism, post-humanism and futurism. He is also author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, covering cosmology, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is currently developing the Underground Desert Living Unit (UDLU), a sustainable single-family dwelling envisioned as a potential adaptation response to the future loss of human habitat due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Reynard is also a contributing author of "Biomes and Ecosystems," a comprehensive reference encyclopedia of the Earth's key biological and geographic classifications, to be published by Salem Press in 2013.