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Is Japan going back to nuclear energy?

Despite the Fukushima accident costing Japanese taxpayers $130 billion and forcing the evacuation of over 150,000 people, utility companies are asking the government if they can flick the nuclear switch back on.

According to Bloomberg, numerous companies that operate the reactors have posted losses totalling more 1.59 trillion yen ($16 billion) in the year to March 31 but it’s not just the companies losing money.

Japan paid more than 24.7 trillion yen ($241 billion) for fossil fuels to replace the energy created by the reactors. What’s more, the power coming from the fuels is inefficient and the country is constantly facing blackouts which are taking a toll on both businesses and the public.

Shikoku Electric’s Takuji Suzaki said that “our import costs are surging, which is causing our financial situation to deteriorate rapidly”. However, some aren’t so concerned about the costs and believe that radioactivity has no place in Japanese society.

In June, a survey by Asahi Shimbum found that of 1,781 respondents only 28% did not oppose the reopening of the nuclear facilities.

No doubt, it will be tough for utility providers to get approval through the fierce opposition and new government regulations but it has already shown favour with investors. When Tokyo Electric Power (the owner of the Fukushima reactor) said it will seek permission for one of its reactors to start operating, shares in the company jumped 19%.

Local uranium companies that could stand to gain from increasing global demand are BHP Billiton  (ASX: BHP), Energy Resources of Australia (ASX: ERA) and Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN). All three companies have had a tough 12 months and good news is likely to help their share price back in a positive direction.

Foolish takeaway

Buying good quality companies at cheap prices is the best way to make money in the stock market. If Japan’s utility companies can safely operate their facilities and apply the rigid safety measures imposed by the government, it could be a win-win for both Japanese citizens and businesses.

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Motley Fool contributor Owen Raszkiewicz does not have a financial interest in any of the mentioned companies.

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