21 April 2006

Japan's appetite for uranium is growing

Asia Times Online :: Japan News and Japanese Business and Economy: "Japan's appetite for uranium is growing
By Hisane Masaki

TOKYO - Energy-hungry Japan is revving up its drive to secure uranium abroad as global demand for nuclear power rises amid stubbornly high oil and gas prices and growing environmental concerns.

Major Japanese trading and energy firms are looking at multibillion yen investments in uranium mine projects, with electronics conglomerate Toshiba in February purchasing Westinghouse, the US power plant arm of British Nuclear Fuels, for about US$5.4 billion.

Meanwhile, the government, which attaches great importance to nuclear power as a key to ensuring national energy security, is

also considering assistance to help domestic firms in the increasingly intensifying global competition for fuel at nuclear power plants. Among those measures are financial aid and more investment-insurance coverage by government-affiliated organizations. Japan is already the world's third-largest nuclear power nation in terms of the number of civilian nuclear plants in operation.

Uranium prices are climbing as energy-hungry China and India are stepping up construction of nuclear power plants to fuel their high-flying economies, while some industrialized countries, including the US and Britain, are moving to build new nuclear power plants after many years of suspension following nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.

Nuclear power generation has begun to come under the spotlight again due to growing environmental concerns as well as the high prices for oil and gas. Nuclear power plants generate much less carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas widely blamed for global warming, than coal-fired facilities. Renewable energy sources such as wind and "

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