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Gillard: Australia to keep exporting uranium

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said Australia will continue to export uranium in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan. "What is happening in Japan doesn’t have any impact on my thinking about uranium exports," she told Sky News yesterday. "Countries around the world will make their own choices about how they source their energy." Australia exports 9,600 tonnes of uranium oxide (used in the production of nuclear power) each year, to the value of over $1.1 billion. But shares in Australia’s biggest uranium exporters have tumbled by up to 23.89 percent during the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan. A Russian company withdrew its US$1.16 billion offer for Australia’s Mantra Resources last week, saying the nuclear crisis in Japan had "fundamentally altered the Australian company’s long term value". Japanese authorities are struggling to cool overheating fuel rods inside the Fukushima No 1 plant’s reactors. The plant’s cooling system was incapacitated by the recent earthquake and tsunami. If the reactors cannot be cooled the plant risks meltdown and a massive radiation leak. But Australian industry executives remain confident about the future of nuclear power. "The factors which were driving the demand for Australia’s uranium and the demand for nuclear power last Friday are still the same today," said Australian Uranium Association chief executive Michael Angwin. Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Julie Bishop said the world cannot reject nuclear power. "If your top priority is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions then nuclear power-as a low-emissions base-load power source-must continue to be in the mix."

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