• Atmospheric CO2 /Parts per Million /Annual Averages /Data Source: noaa.gov

  • 1980338.91ppm

  • 1981340.11ppm

  • 1982340.86ppm

  • 1983342.53ppm

  • 1984344.07ppm

  • 1985345.54ppm

  • 1986346.97ppm

  • 1987348.68ppm

  • 1988351.16ppm

  • 1989352.78ppm

  • 1990354.05ppm

  • 1991355.39ppm

  • 1992356.1ppm

  • 1993356.83ppm

  • 1994358.33ppm

  • 1995360.18ppm

  • 1996361.93ppm

  • 1997363.04ppm

  • 1998365.7ppm

  • 1999367.8ppm

  • 2000368.97ppm

  • 2001370.57ppm

  • 2002372.59ppm

  • 2003375.14ppm

  • 2004376.96ppm

  • 2005378.97ppm

  • 2006381.13ppm

  • 2007382.9ppm

  • 2008385.01ppm

  • 2009386.5ppm

  • 2010388.76ppm

  • 2011390.63ppm

  • 2012392.65ppm

  • 2013395.39ppm

  • 2014397.34ppm

  • 2015399.65ppm

  • 2016403.09ppm

  • 2017405.22ppm

  • 2018407.62ppm

  • 2019410.07ppm

  • 2020412.44ppm

  • 2021414.72ppm

  • 2022418.56ppm

  • 2023421.08ppm

News & Views

Nuclear energy: appetite growing but challenges remain

With governments worldwide turning their heads towards nuclear for energy security and environmental reasons, is there investor appetite to commit to the controversial power source?

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power disaster in March 2011, investment interest in clean nuclear energy fell dramatically, with 48GWe of nuclear capacity lost and 65 reactors shut down or did not have their operational lifetimes extended between 2011 and 2020.

However, the war in Ukraine and the drive to net zero have caused a shift in sentiment, highlighting the need for energy security. 

Since March 2020, the uranium spot price, a barometer for investor interest in nuclear power, has risen from $24.66 per pound to $71.64 as of April 2024. In addition, governments and agencies worldwide have started to recognise the power of the atom in stabilising the energy triangle and achieving real-world decarbonisation.

In 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded in a report that nuclear energy can “help make the energy sector’s journey away from unabated fossil fuels faster and more secure”, with nuclear being “well placed to help decarbonise electricity supply”.

Alongside this, at the end of COP28, the First Global Stocktake called for an acceleration of low-carbon technologies including nuclear energy.

Series of ‘about faces’

So, with nuclear energy seeming to be on the up, are asset owners turning their heads towards the energy source?

Hortense Bioy, head of sustainable investing research at Morningstar, argues that the opinion of many investors towards nuclear has “changed” in recent years, with more asset owners interested in the asset class but appetite remains “relatively low”.

“As carbon has become the primary focus in efforts to stem climate change, a reassessment of the role of nuclear as a baseload power source—alongside more-volatile wind and solar clean energy—has led to a series of about-faces,” Bioy explains.

At the Climate Investment Summit last week, Gjermund Grimsby, chief advisor for climate change at KLP, which has $70bn of assets under management, acknowledged the importance of nuclear going into the future but stated that governments must “develop the regulatory framework and cost efficiency” for pension funds like KLP to commit to the energy source.

Meanwhile, on the side-lines of London's Climate Action Week, investors told Net Zero Investor that there will be an uptick of investment in nuclear energy as we strive for a less carbon-intensive world, with one professional noting a “renaissance” between the revival of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons escalation.

For the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the largest pension fund in the UK, with £90bn of assets under management, it has not made any “decisions in respect of investing in new nuclear”.

However, a spokesperson told Net Zero Investor that it is “interested” in potentially committing to the space, “as long as we are satisfied that the risk-reward characteristics, including supportive economic regulation, represent financial value for USS and its members”.

Similarly, for the UK master trust Nest, which has £39bn of assets under management, nuclear energy is within its “investable universe” but has no current plans to invest in the infrastructure, a spokesperson explained.


Nuclear is a more difficult investment story to sell than renewables such as solar and wind.

Hortense Bioy, head of sustainable investing research, Morningstar

Government sentiment

This comes as the UK government have started to encourage pension fund investment into nuclear power, following its push to expand the country’s nuclear energy sector through earmarking more than £1bn for the nuclear power station Sizewell C.

The Labour political party, which is currently leading in the polls by 20% to win the UK’s general election this week, has also promised to build new nuclear power stations and small modular reactors to help the country achieve energy security and clean power.

Government sentiment towards nuclear started to change following the war in Ukraine, with countries including France, China and India deciding to build and restart their nuclear fleet to increase energy capacity and secure energy dependency.

Attitudes towards nuclear have also changed since the European Union included nuclear energy in its sustainable taxonomy in 2022, recognising its role as a transition energy.

Green bond issuance

In recent years, Canada, France, Finland, Russia and the US have all issued their first green bonds for nuclear projects.

Bioy explained that these issuances “can be seen as a positive signal that nuclear energy is a worthy investment on the path to net zero”.

“New issuance of nuclear green bonds and other sustainable bonds eligible for financing nuclear energy should also be supported by the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities,” she adds.

In addition, the US has implemented the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which offered more federal handouts to struggling reactors.

However, despite this government push and appetite, when talking to some pension funds from the US, such as CalSTRS, they reported that they are only exposed to nuclear through their holdings in publicly held companies and not through direct investment.

‘Narrow theme’

So, why has there been limited direct investment into nuclear by asset owners?

Bioy explains that a reason for this is that financing nuclear power projects remains a “challenge” for many reasons, including the high costs, deployment timelines, technological hurdles, as well as safety and waste management issues.

“Nuclear is a more difficult investment story to sell than renewables such as solar and wind,” she adds.

Bioy also notes that there are “few funds” focused on the nuclear theme and they’re mostly exchange-traded funds (ETFs), making it difficult for investors to access the market.

“The limited number of options reflects the fact that nuclear is a very narrow theme for which it is hard to find pure players. These funds tend to invest in utilities companies for which nuclear energy represents only a small part of their overall activities.

“They also invest in companies in the value chain, for example reactor manufacturers, but there aren’t many of those, and companies that mine uranium, a chemical element used as fuel in nuclear power plants,” Bioy states.

This said, nuclear power is still a “controversial” energy source, due to past disasters as mentioned before, challenges in radioactive waste management and very high upfront costs. In addition, uranium is widely used to produce nuclear energy, an element which is dangerous to mine and technically not renewable.

All this proves that despite government backing and “long-term drivers being supportive of the theme of nuclear”, “challenges remain” making it difficult for investors to commit, explains Bioy.

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