Monday, June 25, 2007

Uranium Prices Stimulate Mining Rush for Nuclear Fuel

With uranium prices shooting upward with the news of a surge in worldwide construction of nuclear reactors, uranium prospectors have gone a little crazy.
Utah mining prospector Kyle Kimmerle has more than a hunch that uranium will make him rich. It is a conviction so strong he has bet his house on it.

"We literally spent every dollar we had in savings, hawked and sold our houses and put everything we owned into this. We went all in," said Kimmerle, who runs a funeral home in this Canyonlands city. "My wife is scared, but I'm not."

He is among a rush of prospectors in the Colorado Plateau mineral belt who are thumping stakes into public land and registering claims, hoping to get rich on the back of record uranium prices.

The boom is reviving the fortunes of a storied mining area in the U.S. Southwest where large uranium ore deposits were first tapped for the voracious Cold War nuclear weapons program in the early 1950s, before suffering a slump.

The Bureau of Land Management said this month a new wave of prospectors have registered some 3,700 claims in the Moab and Monticello areas since October 1 last year, more than twice the total for whole of the previous year.

Prospectors are banking on strong demand for uranium from a resurgent nuclear power industry, as high oil prices and a global effort to clamp down on greenhouse gases blamed for climate change have pushed prices for the metal to $135 per pound, from just $7 in 2000.

This is a modern gold rush, for uranium. Modern societies are addicted to high doses of concentrated energy, and the addiction will only get worse with time. With oil production currently on a plateau, nuclear and coal are the natural fallback options.

There are many safer reactor designs, than the ones most commonly in use around the world. In China, with a heavy death and sickness toll from mining accidents and pollution/contamination of air and water, nuclear power makes sense. Even in the US, where pollution decreases every year, and mining deaths are less common, trading fossil fuel for safer nuclear plants is reasonable.

Certainly there are better means of long term waste disposal than are currently utilised, and the idea of recycling nuclear wastes back into fuel is beginning to catch on with planners and policy makers.

If you own stock in uranium mines, and have no need to sell immediately, you might want to watch and see how things develop.



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