Nuclear fears spark drop in energy stocks

Julian Harris
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STOCKS in nuclear energy companies and uranium miners plummeted yesterday as safety fears threatened to hit the industry.

In New York trading, uranium miners Cameco and USEC were two of the main losers, ending the day down 13.42 per cent and 10.56 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile in France, where over 70 per cent of energy comes from nuclear power, shares of the partly state-owned nuclear equipment provider Areva dropped by 9.61 per cent.

Also in Paris, energy giant EDF saw shares fall 5.28 per cent, as the whole CAC 40 Index declined by 1.29 per cent in the day’s trading.

Areva is bidding to be part of new nuclear power plants in the UK, at sites such as Sizewell in Suffolk, and Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Energy minister Chris Huhne promised a safety review into the industry, yesterday.

However, nuclear development should not be affected in countries where it is politically favoured, according to Jeremy Nicholson of the Energy Intensive Users Group.

“The UK government sees the urgency for new, low-carbon energy,” he told City A.M. “There’s little cause for concern over new plans which incorporate robust safety features developed since the Fukushima plant was built in 1971. New plants are even safer, as they should be – we have very stringent standards in western Europe, quite rightly.”

Yet in Germany a political furore broke out yesterday, with chancellor Angela Merkel forced to back down on the government’s decision to extend the life of several nuclear plants.

“We will suspend the extension of the life of Germany’s nuclear power stations, which was decided only recently,” she said.

And in neighbouring Switzerland, approval procedures for three new nuclear power stations were suspended in order to revisit safety standards, the government announced yesterday.