* Uranium stocks hardest hit, Cameco down over 14 pct
* Germany put nuclear plants on hold, Italy pushes forward
* Utility shares fall, nuclear reactor builders down
(Adds analyst, company comments, updates shares, background)
By Julie Gordon and Matt Daily
TORONTO/NEW YORK, March 14 Investors punished
shares of companies that build nuclear power plants and supply
them with fuel on Monday as the disaster in Japan threw an
industry "renaissance" into doubt.
Energy companies have touted nuclear power as an efficient,
carbon-free source of power to counter climate change,
prompting dozens of power companies to propose new reactors in
the United States and around the globe.
But the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan that has
pushed the Fukushima nuclear complex there to the brink of
meltdown has sparked fears the industry's rebound, touted by
many executives as a "renaissance," may now be derailed.
Japan's crisis, already the worst nuclear accident since
the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, hit shares of industry giant
General Electric (GE.N), which makes nuclear plant equipment,
along with Cameco (CCO.TO), the global No. 2 uranium producer.
GE shares fell 2.2 percent and Cameco shares closed down 13
percent at C$31.70 in Toronto.
Shares in engineering and construction company Shaw Group
SHAW.N tumbled nearly 10 percent. Shaw is a member of a
consortium with Westinghouse Electric Co that plans to build
several plants around the world and at least two reactors in
the United States.
Uranium One UUU.TO, Canada's second-largest producer,
tumbled nearly 28 percent to C$4.31.
U.S. nuclear power plant operators also suffered,
particularly Entergy Corp (ETR.N), which could face new hurdles
in extending the life of its Indian Point nuclear plant in New
York state. Its shares fell 4.9 percent to close at $70.09.
"The New York plants are very valuable and are a
significant component of shareholder value for Entergy," said
Travis Miller, associate director for utilities at Morningstar
Inc in Chicago.
Exelon Corp (EXC.N), a Chicago-based power generator and
utility owner that operates the largest nuclear power plant
fleet in the United States, saw its shares slip 0.6 percent.
Still, the immediate market pessimism may not last,
analysts said, provided the crisis doesn't escalate into a
full-scale catastrophe. If the worst-case scenario is avoided,
the current price slump could quickly become a buying
"Meltdown is a very big word in people's minds, so I think
that the public sentiment is probably going to swing against
nuclear power," said BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck.
"But I don't think this is the end of the nuclear industry."
"With the hype that some commentators are making that this
is the end of the nuclear energy, I think we're going to
possibly see an overreaction in the stock prices. At some point
there will be value there."
Cameco's CEO Gerald Grandey said he doubted the
developments in Japan would have a major impact on the
"Some people have questioned whether the nuclear
renaissance will survive this natural disaster. Looking beyond
the events of recent days, we at Cameco don't see a dramatic
effect on the fundamentals of our uranium business," he told a
TD analyst Greg Barnes said Cameco sells 10 to 15 percent
of its uranium to Japan. If, in what he said was a worst case
scenario, Cameco lost 10 percent of sales, it would translate
to a 21 percent drop in earnings per share. [ID:nN14135943]
On Monday, in response to public pressure against nuclear
development, some European countries announced delays or
changes to their nuclear energy plans. [ID:nLDE72D1YE]
A White House spokesman said on Monday President Barack
Obama remains committed to keeping nuclear energy as part of
the U.S. energy mix despite concerns about its safety after the
earthquake in Japan. [ID:nN14166722]
(Additional reporting by Lynn Adler, Steve James and Euan
Rocha; editing by Janet Guttsman, Gary Hill)