This column by Jim Cramer originally appeared on RealMoney earlier Sunday. Try a free trial to RealMoney.
How easy it is to pretend to know what to do? As easy as it was 25 years ago when Chernobyl exploded. When it happened the world panicked, and all sorts of disaster scenarios existed, in part because of the amazing lack of information coming out of the Soviet Union and the radically escalated levels of radiation showing up in Sweden, which triggered the first word of the accident.
The lack of knowledge directly affected the subsequent trading, and the food and restaurant stocks were especially hard hit because people thought Chernobyl was uncontainable and no one would be able to eat anything but canned food until the radiation cloud dispersed. Yes, it was that scary.
This time around we know more about the event, but, again, because of radiation fears and the ongoing nature of the tragedy, snap judgments will be as wrong as they were back then. In '86 I tried to keep calm, but my investors didn't, and many went into cash.
But there was one thing we were certain of: The process to build a nuclear power plant would become so long and arduous that the fuel would be effectively finished.
That's what happened here. The rest of the world, so energy-starved, kept building them. The older ones in our country, ones that were as vulnerable as Chernobyl, began to get decommissioned at a faster rate. The new ones were scrapped. They were very expensive to build anyway after the Three Mile Island debacle, and the fuel was never considered a serious source of energy again in America.
Instead we switched to coal and natural gas power.
I think that if the current nuclear incident is contained, some people may say that the power plants held up even after a worst-case earthquake. I think that's a pipedream even if nothing else occurs.
I see a wave of rebuilding with natural gas being the preferred fuel. It's the fastest to build and cheapest. I think if a country is
, as Japan is now, it will opt for natural gas entirely because it is much cleaner than coal.
That means huge construction jobs with massive shipping requirements to Japan. It means materials and machinery will be in short supply and the Chinese government-mandated slowdown will be countered.
To build plants you need steel and concrete but, most importantly, aluminum and aluminum turbines. I suspect all of those commodities jump in price, along with the iron ore and copper needed to create the steel and rebuild the electronic infrastructure.
This money will all be provided by Japan so it will serve as a giant and quick stimulus to the world's infrastructure and infrastructure-related businesses. The most obvious players include
That should be the case immediately tomorrow, although overall fears, a la Chernobyl, might initially put a damper on the market. That would cause these stocks to go down slightly with the rest of the market.
They are, however, the go-to names if the smoke clears and people believe the worst is over. If not, then I think they would be more late-in-the day or second-day plays.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Alcoa and Vale
Jim Cramer, founder of TheStreet.com, writes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's RealMoney and runs the charitable trust portfolio,
. He also participates in video segments on TheStreet.com TV and serves as host of CNBC's "Mad Money" television program.
Mr. Cramer graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, where he was president of The Harvard Crimson. He worked as a journalist at the Tallahassee Democrat and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, covering everything from sports to homicide before moving to New York to help start American Lawyer magazine. After a three-year stint, Mr. Cramer entered Harvard Law School and received his J.D. in 1984. Instead of practicing law, however, he joined Goldman Sachs, where he worked in sales and trading. In 1987, he left Goldman to start his own hedge fund. While he worked at his fund, Mr. Cramer helped start Smart Money for Dow Jones and then, in 1996, he founded TheStreet.com, of which he is chairman and where he has served as a columnist and contributor since. In 2000, Mr. Cramer retired from active money management to embrace media full time, including radio and television.
Mr. Cramer is the author of "
," "You Got Screwed," "Jim Cramer's Real Money," "Jim Cramer's Mad Money," "Jim Cramer's Stay Mad for Life" and, most recently, "Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even." He has written for Time magazine and New York magazine and has been featured on CBS' 60 Minutes, NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, Meet the Press, Today, The Tonight Show, Late Night and MSNBC's Morning Joe.