“Clean, safe, and too cheap to meter.” This sunny tagline from the early days of atomic energy has more recently become a quickest way to sum up how dark and dismal its prospects are today–as in, nuclear power has proven itself to be unclean, unsafe, and prohibitively expensive. “Clean, safe and too cheap to meter” now sounds less like boastful marketing, and more like a schoolyard taunt.
The numbers of ways nuclear power plants have betrayed their Madison Avenue mantra has pretty much been the backbeat of this column for nearly ten months now, and 2012 keeps up the cadence.
Exelon Corporation, the nation’s largest owner of nuclear facilities, has already hit a sour note. . . or two.
First, Exelon and Constellation Energy, another major nuclear operator that Exelon agreed to buy last April, have just seen Citigroup downgrade their stock from “buy” to “neutral.” The reason this time, it seems, is not due to the shaky future of nuclear holdings, but instead due to the falling price of natural gas. Gas prices have hit a two-year low thanks to the glut of gas from a nation gone frack-happy.
But why should a Citigroup not worry about the value of nuclear stocks when current problems have required costly shutdowns and repairs, and future improvements that might (might) be required post-Fukushima will necessitate more capital outflow? One need look no further than the same Exelon portfolio, as reflected in a separate story out just one week later: [cont’d.]