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In reply to: marathon on Saturday 22/01/05 09:48am

In terms of future uranium use I read an article overnight I think on BBC News about an incredible expansion of China's Nuclear Power industry coming up which I can't seem to find now. However the gist of it was as per this earlier article .....



"China aims to quadruple nuclear power

27 new reactors by 2020 are planned



Updated: 2:36 p.m. ET Dec. 14, 2004



BEIJING - China has big plans for nuclear power, hoping to build 27 new reactors at a cost of $1 billion each in order to quadruple capacity by 2020.


That should take China to 36,000 megawatts, according to Zhang Huazhu, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority.


ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’‚¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is not easy to realize the target of 36,000 megawatts by 2020. It means we should build 27 nuclear power generators each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts by then,ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ said Zhang, also vice minister of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.


With nine nuclear power generators in operation, China had a total nuclear power capacity of 7,010 megawatts by the end of July, he said.


Capability would reach 9,130 megawatts by the end of 2005 when the Tianwan plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu came online, Zhang said.


Pillar 'of the power structure'

He said the goal is for nuclear power to account for about 4 percent of ChinaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s total output by 2020 compared with just 1.7 percent at present.


The new plants would be concentrated in the thriving but energy-thirsty eastern and southern coastal areas, Zhang said, though inland provinces had also drawn up plans.


ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’‚¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nuclear energy will become one of the pillars of the power structure in the booming coastal areas,ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ he said.


All ChinaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s existing nuclear power plants are along the east and south coast.


In July, Beijing approved to two nuclear power projects, the first in over five years. Each plant, one in Zhejiang and one in Guangdong, will have two 1,000 megawatt reactors.


Two other plants in the same provinces were in the approval process, Zhang said.


Foreign firms would be invited to tender for construction of two of the four plants, while the other two would rely mainly on ChinaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s own technology, he added.


ChinaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s government had attached great importance to the safety of nuclear power plants and its safety supervision and management system proved to be effective, Zhang said.


ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’‚¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“Radiation dosage of employees in our nuclear plants are below one percent, much lower than the governmentÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s limit,ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ he said.


Coal and hydropower

Three-quarters of ChinaÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s 400,000 megawatts of installed power capacity, the worldÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s second largest after the United States, are fired by coal.


The country has suffered from its worst power crunch in 20 years this summer due to a galloping economy and a coal squeeze.


Engineers blocked the Yangtze at the Three Gorges Dam in June last year, filling the reservoir for a $25 billion hydro-electric project, the worldÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¾ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢s largest, that is a point of national pride."



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In reply to: trindlers on Saturday 22/01/05 10:15am

And from the NPRI site ......


"Supplies dwindle even as Asia builds more nuclear reactors


MELBOURNE Prices for uranium, used to generate 16 percent of the world's electricity, may rise by a quarter this year as stockpiles of the nuclear fuel decrease and demand is set to rise from reactors being built in China and India.


"You have gone from a buyer's to a seller's market," said Bob Mitchell, who holds physical uranium worth more than $26 million for Adit Capital Management in Portland, Oregon. "Most reactors under construction haven't secured long-term supply and there is no inventory left among utilities."


Commercial stockpiles of the fuel dropped 50 percent between 1985 and 2003 because mine output could not keep up with demand, according to a September report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mine expansions may not meet demand, pushing up prices for uranium at miners such as Cameco, the world's biggest, and Energy Resources of Australia.


Cameco shares rose 68 percent last year and Energy Resources of Australia, which is 68 percent-owned by Rio Tinto Group, surged 94 percent. Paladin Resources, an Australian company that plans to mine uranium in Namibia, rose ninefold.


China is preparing to award an $8 billion contract to build four reactors in the world's biggest nuclear power construction program. The country plans to build 27 plants to meet a target of raising nuclear energy output fivefold by 2020. India aims to build 17 reactors to triple nuclear power capacity by 2012.


"Uranium prices will advance in 2005," said Mitchell at Adit Capital, who also owns Cameco shares as part of the $200 million he helps manage at another fund, Touchstone Investment Managers. "In China, they'll have to build a couple more reactors a year."


Concern about supply shortages helped increase spot prices of uranium to $20.50 a pound as of Dec. 31, according to Metal Bulletin. That is the highest since 1984, according to a report by Jeff Combs, president of Ux Consulting, based in Roswell, Georgia, which publishes spot uranium prices.


The spot market, which makes up about 12 percent of uranium sales, according to the World Nuclear Association, sets a price reference for long-term contracts between miners and utilities. Uranium prices rose to a record of more than $40 a pound in the late 1970s, according to Combs at Ux Consulting.


Contract prices paid by power companies may rise to $27 a pound this year from $20 a pound last year, a National Bank Financial analyst, Ian Howat, said in a Nov. 24 report. Long-term prices may rise to $26 a pound, a Goldman Sachs JBWere analyst, Ian Preston, said in a Dec. 14 report after attending a uranium conference in Sydney.


"It looks like current prices are here to stay and possibly rise significantly," Craig Kinnell, acting chief executive of Energy Resources of Australia, the world's third-biggest uranium miner, said in an interview Dec. 31.


"Inventories are falling and there has been little response to that in the way of more mine supply. Our contract prices have risen to reflect the spot price rises."


China aims to double total power generation capacity by 2020. It needs to add two reactors a year by then to meet a target of generating 4 percent of its power from nuclear plants.


Demand from China may help uranium prices double in the next two years and may triple demand for nuclear power by 2020, said Quinton George, managing director of Trinity Asset Management. The company owns 18 percent of Afrikander Lease, which holds South Africa's biggest uranium deposit.


"The supply deficit will affect this market for at least the next 10 years," Geroge said. "In the next two years we could well see uranium touching historical highs, at least doubling current prices."


China has begun talks with Australia, which holds the world's largest uranium reserves, to enable the fuel to be exported by Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest miner, and WMC Resources, which owns the biggest deposit of the radioactive metal.


"We're working with the Australian government to get the ability to sell uranium to China," Bruce Brook, WMC's chief financial officer, said in an interview in November. "These guys have announced 32 nuclear power stations to be developed over the next 16 years."


The Melbourne-based WMC in November increased its long-term uranium forecast to $30 a pound and said that its Olympic Dam deposit could become the world's biggest uranium mine if a 4 billion Australian dollar, or $3 billion, expansion is approved. Cameco plans to increase production 18 percent at McArthur River in Canada, now the world's biggest uranium mine.


"We've got customers who are highly-concerned about the supply chain of uranium," said Brook at WMC, who is also in charge of the company's uranium marketing. "I can assure you the pricing that they have in mind is not going backward. Our expansion and one planned by Cameco won't fill the gap" between supply and demand, he said.


World demand will outpace supply by 11 percent in the decade ending in 2013 as inventories decline, the World Nuclear Association estimates.


The decline in stockpiles has been hastened by the decision of Russia, the world's biggest uranium exporter after Canada, in October 2003 to limit its exports to conserve fuel for 25 plants it wants to build by 2020.


Reactor fuel made from former Russian nuclear weapons powers one out of every 10 U.S. homes, according to the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute trade group."


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Some views from the BBC on "Powering the Planet"


Viewpoints: Powering the planet


Is it possible to meet demand without harming the environment?

According to the International Energy Agency the world will need almost 60% more energy in 2030 than in 2002.

But is it possible to meet this growing demand without causing catastrophic damage to the environment?


BBC News asked a range of experts how our ballooning thirst for energy can be catered for.



"Meeting demand will depend on timely and targeted investment"

Dr Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency


"Coal could be an important source of fuel post 2050"

Professor Ian Fells, New and Renewable Energy Centre


"Much innovation will have to be done in developing countries"

Ashok Khosla, Development Alternatives, India

I don't think it's as hopeless as many suggest

Steve Sawyer, climate policy adviser, Greenpeace


"For transport, hydrogen has to become the principal fuel source"

Dave McGrath, Managing Director, siGEN Ltd


"Energy efficiency is instrumental to every household"

Philip Sellwood, Energy Saving Trust







Reserves won't run out - but they need investment

Dr Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency


Although the world's energy resources are more than adequate to meet demand until 2030 and beyond, meeting it will depend on timely and targeted investment.


Cumulative investment of some $16 trillion from 2003-2030 will be needed to meet the soaring demand.


Developing countries, where production and demand are set to increase most, will require about half of global investment.


But they will face the biggest challenge in raising finance, because their economies are smaller in relation to their needs and the investment risks are bigger.


More vigorous government action could steer the world onto a markedly different energy path.


Coupled with environmental and energy-security policies, faster deployment of energy-efficient technologies could considerably reduce energy demand.


However, a truly sustainable energy system will require technological breakthroughs to drastically alter how we produce and use energy.



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Efficiency and renewable technologies can deliver

Steve Sawyer, climate policy adviser, Greenpeace


I don't want to paint too rosy a picture, but I don't think it's as hopeless as many suggest.


There is the possibility of energy efficiency improvements well in excess of 50% in most industrial countries and all rapidly industrialising economies.


In terms of renewable energy, technically, there is potential for renewables to meet global consumption many, many times over - the trick is to do it economically.


The European Renewable Energy Council, which we work with, says that there is potential for nearly 48% of global energy demand by 2040 to be met by economically feasible renewables.


We are generally on track for this in the wind, solar panels, geothermal and small-scale hydropower sectors - although we're a bit behind in biomass and solar thermal electricity, and progress varies between different countries and regions.


I'm not just optimistic that we can reach it, I think we will have to reach it. Current oil price rises are only the beginning. Governments are going to move to renewables more and more out of their own economic self-interest, although the Kyoto Protocol has been and will continue to be a key driver.


Will our lifestyles have to change? If quality of life is measured by the size of the engine of the quasi-military assault vehicle the housewife drives to the shopping mall, then yes, but if we're talking about basic comforts, transport and general services, then no.



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New nuclear and coal technologies will save the day

Professor Ian Fells, New and Renewable Energy Centre


Coal could be an important source of hydrocarbon fuel post 2050 provided we can sequester the carbon dioxide produced by burning it in geological strata and stop it from entering the atmosphere. Otherwise, the effect on global warming will be disastrous.


Nuclear power will be an increasingly important element in our energy mix. However, we will have to move to fast-reactor - also known as fast-breeder reactor - technology. This is a design of nuclear reactor which produces more fissile material than it consumes, so is able to generate much more energy from the same amount of uranium.


This will give us a secure electricity supply, world wide, for 500 years. Fast reactors have been operating in Russia for 20 years.


It is unlikely that renewable energy can meet more than 20% of our needs.



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Hydrogen - significant, but not the whole answer

Dave McGrath, Managing Director, siGEN Ltd


Hydrogen will make a significant contribution to cleaner energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it's not the whole answer.


For transport, hydrogen has to become the principal fuel source, simply because the amount of CO2 we're putting out direct from burning fossil hydrocarbons in vehicles is way out of proportion. Hydrogen is the only non-fossil fuel available so far that can be carried on a vehicle.


Hydrogen isn't a principal energy source - it's only a storage or conversion mechanism, so it is only as renewable as the source used to produce the hydrogen.


It can be produced from natural gas, which is a fossil hydrocarbon. The Americans are doing this because it makes the fossil hydrocarbons go a lot further.


It can also be made using electricity - ideally generated using renewable energy - to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. And it can be made from biogas, coming from biomass such as sewage or abattoir waste.


How useful hydrogen can be very much comes down to local conditions. In countries or communities with plenty of renewable energy to make hydrogen from, like the UK, the technology will have greater impact.



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Developing countries should lead on renewables

Ashok Khosla, founder of Indian NGO Development Alternatives


The world is not harnessing enough alternative energy sources.


At the moment, no more than 2% or 3% of most countries' energy comes from renewable sources. But it has to be done.


China, for example, has a lot of sun, it has a lot of hydro-energy, a great deal of biomass potential - these are all sources of renewable energy.


Unfortunately, these sources of energy haven't been developed in the West, so there are no good innovations available that will solve the problems.


Therefore, much of that innovation will have to be done in China and in India and in other developing countries.


I believe the future lies in choosing those kinds of technologies. But they will not happen on their own. They will have to be actively pursued.


There is a disconnect here between those who bear the historical responsibility for where the environment is today and those who are actually going to end up paying the cost.


The omelette has been eaten and the people whose eggs got broken are somewhere else.



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Small changes add up to big savings

Philip Sellwood, Energy Saving Trust


We are facing a global energy crisis. With world oil prices breaking the US$50 (ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚£38) a barrel mark in September, we are being forced to re-think the way we have traditionally used our natural resources to fuel our homes and businesses.


Every time we leave a light on or forget to switch our TV or video off standby, carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere from power stations around the world, causing untold damage to the environment.


While renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaics, hydro and wind power are the long-term solution to our energy crisis, energy efficiency is instrumental to every household in its bid to reduce energy consumption, save money and help the environment.


On average, UK households waste ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚£96m ($165m) on energy every week. This is enough to give every man, woman and child ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚£84 a year. This money could be saved if only they took simple measures such as installing an energy efficient light bulb or turning down their thermostats by one degree Celsius.



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Well ,Gallop has called the WA election.Let's wait and see how much of an election issue he is going to make the maintaining of the ban on uranium mining in WA.He said last month that it would be one of the policies he would run on.




WA goes to the polls

January 23, 2005

From: AAP

WEST Australian voters would go to the polls on February 26, Premier Geoff Gallop confirmed today.


Dr Gallop said his election campaign would focus on the difference between what his Government could deliver and had already delivered.

He said the Colin Barnett-led Liberal Party was intent on privatising assets and was unwilling to admit to its political mistakes.


The Premier said his party had a plan and vision for the future while his political adversaries would take Western Australia backwards.


Dr Gallop, who was upbeat, positive and strong at a press conference to announce the election, said although his party was the underdog according to polls, he believed there was a clear cut choice for voters.






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It didn't take Gallop long to start talking about uranium mining so he must think there are votes in continuing the ban on uranium mining.

From today's "Australian"


The Premier attacked the Coalition, saying voters did not know what it stood for and accused it of planning to sell state assets to pay for services.


"I urge all West Australians ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ don't be sold out by Colin Barnett," Dr Gallop said.


He also attacked the Coalition's environmental credentials, accusing it of supporting uranium mining.



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The half-life and times of Australia's uranium dilemma


January 27, 2005


WHEN John Howard arrives at the World Economic Forum tomorrow he'll be confronted with the theme of the world's biggest business and political gathering: "Taking responsibility for tough choices".


And the toughest choice our Prime Minister, and Treasurer Peter Costello, will face this year is whether to hand dominance of the global uranium market to a bunch of Swiss commodity traders.


The stakes are high: there's a high likelihood of a price cartel and a considerable reduction in control over where our uranium goes.


Although there are difficult environmental issues, such as waste management, nuclear energy is emerging as the key fuel source for maintaining global growth rates while cutting emissions.


Australia has well over a third of the world's uranium and whoever controls it will have enormous global power over the next 20 years.







Historically, the Swiss are best known for their watches, cheese, chocolates and secretive bankers. But just over 20 years ago Switzerland became a big global force in commodity trading when Marc Rich fled to the country, pending US criminal charges.


To pay his US taxes in 1984 Rich sold his stake in Twentieth Century Fox to his partner, oil billionaire Marvin Davis, who in 1985 onsold it to News Corporation, publisher of The Australian ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ a deal that led to the transformation of the then Australian-based company.


Rich developed one of the world's biggest commodity empires to take advantage of Swiss neutrality and laws.


These days Rich is ageing, but his legacy remains.


He enticed many top global traders to Switzerland using various lures: freedom from US laws, low taxes in the canton of Zug, and the advantages of Swiss education.


The traders would use Swiss law to legally break trade embargoes imposed by the US and other governments and take advantage of the turmoil in the former USSR to buy metals and other commodities at attractive prices. In the process Rich and his traders would become fabulously rich.


These days Rich is less active but his techniques are embedded in the generation of traders he trained. Almost every trade embargo ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ including Cuba, Iran, Libya, South Africa and more recently Iraq ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ has given the Swiss the chance to make big profits.


The Swiss developed techniques to use derivatives so that governments could never trace what was happening to physical material.


The Zug canton ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ I passed through the place on the way to the World Economic Forum ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ has set up a training school for traders.


It is clear that their biggest coup may come if Xstrata can gain control of WMC Resources, owner of a third of the world's uranium through its Olympic Dam mine in outback South Australia.


On the surface, Zug-based Xstrata looks remote from the Swiss traders but most of its products are marketed by Glencore, a company owned by the Swiss traders.


Glencore officially owns only 16 per cent of Xstrata, but that stake is more than doubled via the traders' influence over Xstrata shares held by Credit Suisse.


Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board has an old file on Glencore. When the Swiss traders tried to make a bid for a significant stake in the Portland aluminium smelter in the early 1990s they were told quietly a rejection was possible, so they sold their small stake.


Whereas the hedge fund traders in London and New York simply borrow money to punt in the market, Rich and his people are much smarter and constantly look for an edge.


In the early 1950s, when Rich dropped out of New York University, no one could have believed what would happen to him in the next 50 years.


His first opportunity to star arose out of the Korean War, when governments stockpiled mercury. Rich acquired the rights to the production of the world's two biggest mercury producers, and the squeeze he imposed delivered a fortune to his employer, Philipp Bros.


The firm then sent Rich to Cuba and later he devised ways to get around the US embargoes. But he split with Philipp and, while still residing in the US, set up Marc Rich AG in Switzerland to take advantage of Swiss law.


Two enormous opportunities arose. Marc Rich AG made a fortune breaking the Cuban embargoes and marketing Iranian oil in defiance of US bans. After the OPEC crisis the US began to classify its oil into various categories, including "old oil" selling at $US6 a barrel.


For Rich that was a ticket to a bonanza, as he purchased oil at around $US6 and found a way to sell it for between $US25 and $US45 a barrel. But the US reckoned that as a US citizen he could not hide behind a Swiss company. With charges pending it was time to move to Switzerland, and in the next 11 years he obeyed Swiss law, unfettered by US restrictions.


In 1994, Rich sold his Swiss trading company to the traders who had come to Switzerland to learn from him. They dropped the name Rich for Glencore International and widened its activities.


I'm sure Rich is right in saying he has no ownership of Glencore (he now has his own Swiss trading company) but the culture is the same ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ it is owned by his traders and headed by one of his lieutenants.


In a derivative-based trading world, if the Swiss gain control of the marketing of Australia's one-third of the world's uranium, the three biggest suppliers of nuclear fuel will be Switzerland, Canada and Russia.


The Swiss have very close ties to Russian marketers, and with the Australian third in their pocket they will be in the position that Rich achieved back in the 1950s with mercury.


The combination of uranium embargoes and a small tight cartel has the potential to deliver profits that will dwarf anything the Swiss traders previously achieved. The Swiss will argue they will obey any Australian restrictions (sensitive markets can be supplied from Russia) because Zug's potential cartel rewards are so great.


But the Swiss leopards will have to convince Australia that they have managed a complete change of spots.


Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis might be the world's greatest mineral strategist but he is saddled with the past activities of his biggest shareholder and the marketer of his minerals.


If Costello and Howard allow the Swiss traders to control a significant chunk of global uranium they will have to accept global responsibility for the consequences.





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In reply to: drrc on Thursday 27/01/05 07:23am

That's why I'm quite happy to hold my SMM shares. They have the third or fourth largest holding in Australia behind the big players and although the Qld Gov doesn't allow mining at this point, it's only a matter of time before the Fed. gov. intervenes due to international pressure or a change in Qld Gov. causes the change IMO. http://www.ShareScene.com/html/emoticons/biggrin.gif

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Let them eat yellowcake

Andrew Trounson

January 29, 2005


YELLOWCAKE, nukes, meltdowns, The China Syndrome, radiation, proliferation, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, terrorism. There are few more emotive topics in the world of politics or business than uranium.


And few countries have a greater potential role to play than Australia in the future trade and exploitation of element 92 on the periodic table - the twin source of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.


Until last year's hostile $7.4 billion foreign takeover bid for venerable Melbourne mining house WMC, the old Western Mining Corp, it was a little-known fact that Australia is the world's single largest repository of uranium.


Beneath our sunburnt soil lies more than one-third of the world's known resources of the radioactive mineral, the vast bulk of it almost a kilometre underground at WMC's giant Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine at Roxby Downs in outback South Australia.


The price of uranium has been surging, buoyed by expectations that ex-military stocks are drying up.







"We have seen this hot up over the last year or two as the interest in uranium picked up," says WMC chief executive Andrew Michelmore during a break from plotting his defence against Swiss-based suitor Xstrata.


He says customers and rival suppliers have approached WMC, keen to lock up supplies as the miner contemplates a $5 billion expansion of the mine that would treble production to 15,000 tonnes a year from 2010.


The world's two largest producers, Canada's Cameco and French government-owned nuclear company Areva, are keen on Olympic Dam's supplies, as are the energy-hungry Chinese.


Now Xstrata, fresh from its $4.9billion takeover of Queensland coal and copper miner MIM in 2003, wants to buy Olympic Dam and the rest of WMC's assets, which also include the world's third-biggest nickel operation in Western Australia.


WMC has rebuffed Xstrata's bid as too cheap and has put Olympic Dam at the centre of its takeover defence, talking up the prospects of its expansion based on a bullish, but far from certain, outlook for uranium prices.


In the midst of this corporate brawl sits Treasurer Peter Costello, who is being lobbied to block the takeover amid claims that Olympic Dam's uranium is too strategic an asset and its exports too much of a security risk to be entrusted to Xstrata.


Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis met Costello on Thursday before flying back to London yesterday.


Costello is no stranger to the situation. Back in 2001 he shocked the business community by vetoing Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell's $10 billion bid for Australian oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum.


At the heart of that decision were concerns that the takeover could deliver Shell decisive control over the North West Shelf liquefied natural gas operation in northwestern Australia, the country's single largest resources project. The fear was that a multinational company like Shell could, perhaps for strategic reasons, hold back the development of the Shelf in favour of other of its gas projects around the world. This time around it is the unique security risks posed by uranium, and aspersions cast over the suitability of Xstrata's major shareholder - the notoriously private and hard-headed Swiss commodities trading house Glencore - to be involved in Australian uranium.


Michelmore and WMC have stayed out of the national interest debate, saying it is up to the Government. But for his part Michelmore doesn't believe that uranium represents a special case in itself.


While recognising concerns over nuclear weapons proliferation, Michelmore says "the public can rest assured" that government and international safeguards ensure that Australian uranium won't end up in the wrong hands.


But the anti-nuclear movement is sceptical, pointing out that the step from being a civilian user to being a military user is too easy a one to make, and that the world's track record on proliferation isn't good, with nuclear weapons now extending to such countries as North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel and soon possibly Iran.


"It is a dual-use technology," says Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner David Noonan. "The presence of a civilian nuclear power industry provides a country with the option to become a nuclear weapons state."


The takeover question has put into focus a swag of issues surrounding uranium mining in Australia, including environmental and health concerns, the risk of terrorist attacks, the safety of nuclear reactors and the storage of radioactive waste.


More than any other mineral, with the possible exception of oil, uranium breeds a complicated set of contradictions.


The nuclear industry is actively promoting itself as the answer to tackling climate change by cutting fossil fuel emissions. But Green groups counter that nuclear power's climate-friendly credentials are far outweighed by the health and security risks.


In Western Australia, Premier Geoff Gallop's Labor Government has banned uranium mining, saying the debate has been fought and won, and uranium mining lost. But just over the border in South Australia his Labor colleague, Premier Mike Rann, is pushing with all his might for Olympic Dam to be doubled in size, to make it the world's biggest single producer of uranium.


Further east in Melbourne, prominent businessman and former Liberal Party treasurer Ron Walker came close to embracing leftist nationalisation in calling for government to consider taking ownership of Olympic Dam's uranium to stop it falling into the hands of foreigners such as Xstrata.


While Xstrata's Davis battles a national interest backlash, WMC's Michelmore is busily promoting the prospect of selling his expanded uranium production to China, which has a controversial nuclear weapons program and a dismal record on human rights.


He has also given France's Areva a guided tour of Olympic Dam as he explores possible joint ventures and long-term sales deals to underwrite the expansion. This is the same France to which we once banned uranium sales because of its nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific, and the French penchant for blowing up protest boats in neutral countries such as New Zealand. Sales to France didn't fully return to normal until October 1996, when it finally signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


Because of the metal's radioactivity and end use, uranium mining has been dogged by controversy. In 1984 the Hawke Labor government adopted the so-called Three Mines policy which banned any new uranium mines. After the 1988 closure of the Narbarlek mine in the Northern Territory it was effectively a two mines policy - Olympic Dam and the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, which is now owned by London-based Rio Tinto.


John Howard scrapped the policy when he came to power in 1996, and in 2000 US-based General Atomics started up uranium production at its Beverley project in northeastern South Australia. Canada's Southern Cross Resources has advanced plans to start production at its Honeymoon Well deposit, also in the state's northeast.


But even with the scrapping of the Three Mines policy, uranium mines continue to be regularly opposed by Green groups. In 1999, North Ltd, the former owner of Ranger, was forced to abandon plans to develop the nearby Jabiluka deposit within Kakadu National Park after a massive protest campaign. While the campaign was motivated by concerns over environmental damage to Kakadu and by the opposition of the traditional Aboriginal owners, the fact that uranium was concerned was also a factor.


Most recently the sensitivity of uranium mining in Australia was recognised in last year's Free Trade Agreement with the US. Under the FTA, the threshold requiring Foreign Investment Review Board approval for acquisitions by US companies in Australia was raised to $800 million from just $50 million. Uranium, however, was specifically excluded from the threshold cut.


According to Ron Huisken at Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, suggestions that Xstrata's ownership of Olympic Dam could represent a security risk don't stack up, because the Government already maintains tight controls over uranium exports.


"We are among the most meticulous in trying to ensure that the end users are who they say they are ... and there have been no significant glitches to my knowledge," Huisken says. "Those controls would remain in place whoever owns it."


Australia's uranium mines produce a powder called yellowcake - unprocessed uranium oxide - which is then concentrated on-site into an extremely heavy greenish powder for export. It is 1.7 times denser than lead and a 205-litre drum two-thirds full weighs 400kg.


Sales are made under the strict control of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to ensure the uranium is used only for peaceful purposes, mainly in reactors to produce electricity.


At Olympic Dam the uranium oxide is packed into steel drums and loaded into shipping containers that are then trucked to Port Adelaide to be loaded directly on to ships. Recently, Olympic Dam started a three-month trial transporting uranium to Darwin on the new Adelaide-to-Darwin rail link.


Unlike spent fuel from nuclear reactors or high-level radioactive waste, uranium oxide emits only low levels of radiation, or energy waves from unstable atoms, which are further shielded by the steel drums and shipping container.


"People just lose perspective on these things and any amount of radiation is seen as insidious," says Ian Hore-Lacy, general manager of the Melbourne-based Uranium Information Centre. He says granites on Adelaide's North Terrace emit greater amounts of radiation than 98 per cent of the waste that would have gone into the proposed nuclear waste dump at Woomera in the South Australian desert.


The federal Government's key concern is to prevent our uranium ever feeding weapons programs, and accordingly we sell only to countries which have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and with which we have a bilateral agreement. Australia has 18 such agreements covering 35 countries, and its biggest customers are the US, Japan, South Korea, France and Britain. In co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ASNO monitors uranium sales through the nuclear fuel cycle.


A few years ago WMC and its shareholders wouldn't have cared much about uranium, which is actually produced as a by-product of Olympic Dam's copper production. But in recent times, once moribund uranium prices have surged.


In the late 1970s spot uranium prices were more than $US40 a pound. But the price slumped in the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979, when what eventually proved to be low levels of radiation leaked from the plant during an emergency shutdown.


Public confidence in nuclear energy plummeted, putting the brakes on new reactors and sending the uranium price south. The public mood wasn't helped by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.


In the 1990s the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a sharp increase in the supply of ex-military uranium as nuclear weapons were decommissioned, sending prices down below $US10/lb.


But in the past three years spot uranium prices have trebled from about $US7/lb to more than $US20/lb on expectations of a supply shortage as the supply of ex-military stocks slows and a lack of new mine production starts to bite.


On the face of it the outlook for uranium prices is strong, especially since fuel costs represent only a small proportion of the overall cost of nuclear power, where the bulk of the costs come from building the reactor.


But the long-term outlook for uranium prices is far from certain. On the supply side there is the potential for the faster release of ex-military material from the former Soviet Union than currently agreed, while there is also the potential for further nuclear disarmament to increase supplies.


Then there is the unpredictability of nuclear power demand. Nuclear's share of worldwide electricity demand has been stagnant at about 16 per cent since 1987.


In the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the construction of new nuclear reactors in the West and the USSR stalled, with some countries, such as Germany, planning to phase it out.


While the world's growth engines, China and India, have embarked on nuclear programs to help meet their fast-growing energy demand, the IAEA is forecasting nuclear's share of world electricity power generation to fall to just 12 per cent by 2030.


But this is the IAEA's low projection and assumes a "business as usual" scenario under which existing plants will close on schedule, and that no new plants will be built beyond those already under construction or firmly planned.


This scenario ignores the potential for nuclear power to be embraced more widely as a solution to cutting fossil fuel emissions, especially in the wake of an improved safety record. An oil price at $US50 a barrel will also encourage countries to look at alternative energy sources such as nuclear.


Incorporating a wider market analysis, the IAEA has said a median forecast could be for nuclear power generation to increase by 2.5 times by 2030 to account for 27 per cent of world electricity generation, and for nuclear power output to quadruple by 2050.


It is this latter scenario that WMC is banking on in promoting Olympic Dam as the centrepiece of its bid defence.


But whether WMC's shareholders even get the chance to decide on the bid will be up to Costello, and the contradictory chain reactions that go with uranium mining.





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A bullish full page article in today's Australian Financial Review "Uranium Prices are starting to glow" by Trevor Sykes.


A few extracts


"The President of Nuclear International ,Dustin Garrow ,told a London seminar early this month that it was not unreasonable to assume $US30 for long term contracts"


"All these factors indicate that there will be increasing demand for uranium in future.Robert Mitchell,portfolio manager for Adit Capital in Oregon (the world's only fund dedicated to investing in uranium and uranium stocks) says "The nuclear power industry is not on the eve of possible growth ,it is in the midst of strong global growth" Mitchell reckons the world's total uncovered requirements for uranium oxide (that is the shortfall between demand and contracted supply) will rise from 8 million pounds to 130 million pounds in 2009.

On the supply side the world is now consuming about 180 million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8) per year while mine output is about half that figure.The gap is being filled by secondary sources mostly from reprocessing and Russia.

Uranium is a sinister metal but is not rare.There are large deposits in Canada,the former

Soviet Union,West Africa and our own Arnhem Land not to mention further potential resources at Olympic Dam.

Canada's Cigar Lake ,for instance ,is a rich deposit discovered in 1982 but has not yet been mined because it needs a price of $US 20 per pound to open."


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