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Australia PM defends nuclear industry

20 march 2011, 18:16
0
Prime Minister Julia Gillard  @AFP
Prime Minister Julia Gillard @AFP
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has insisted the major producer will withstand the Japanese nuclear crisis despite a slump in sharesб AFP reports.

Although Australia uses no nuclear power, it is the world's third-ranking uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada, exporting some 9,600 tones of oxide concentrate annually worth over 1.1 billion dollars (1.09 billion US dollars).

It also holds the world's largest reserves of uranium -- the most widely used nuclear fuel -- with 23 percent of the total, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Perception of the nuclear industry has been seriously hurt since the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Japan was crippled eight days ago by a terrifying earthquake and tsunami.

The twin disasters knocked out the plant's cooling systems, sparking a series of explosions and fires. Authorities have struggled to keep fuel rods inside reactors and fuel storage containment pools under water to prevent a major radiation leak.

But Gillard said the crisis would not affect Australian uranium sales.

"What is happening in Japan doesn't have any impact on my thinking about uranium exports," she told Sky News.
"We do export uranium and we will continue to export uranium.

"Countries around the world will make their own choices about how they source their energy."

Japan is an important customer of Australia, as is China, which last week ordered safety inspections of its nuclear plants and suspended approval of new projects.

China currently operates 13 nuclear plants and is building more than two dozen others -- estimated at 40 percent of all plants being built worldwide.

Other major markets for Australian uranium oxide include the United States and the European Union.

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