October 22, 2012

Australia's Queensland will permit uranium mining and Japanese nuclear reactors will have systems to prevent hydroegen explosions

1. After years of staunchly opposing uranium mining, Queensland state (austrialia's northeast) has had a sudden change of heart. The state government says it plans to restart an industry that’s been dormant since 1982 so it can unlock deposits of the nuclear fuel worth 10 billion Australian dollars (US$10.3 billion).

That’s good news for listed miners like Paladin Energy, Canada’s Mega Uranium and Laramide Resources that kept hold of uranium assets in Queensland when rivals including Rio Tinto were losing patience and selling out.

Laramide says its Westmoreland project, formerly owned by Rio Tinto, has reserves of 51.9 million pounds of uranium.

According to Morgan Stanley, the global uranium market will be in deficit from 2014 with demand outstripping supply by 6,850 tons by the end of the decade, even though Japan is likely to move away from nuclear power in the long term, and China is set to miss by 25% its original target of having 80 gigawatts of new nuclear power generating capacity in operation by 2020.

Australia has the world’s largest known reserves of uranium, but accounts for only 11% of global yellowcake output, making it the third-biggest producer after Kazakhstan and Canada.

Queensland is hard up for cash and needs a shot in the arm as prices of key exports like thermal and coking coal show little sign of recovery amid weakening demand in Asia. Last month, the state has slashed government jobs and hiked royalties on coal miners in an effort to avert a further downgrade to its credit grade–which the major ratings firms reduced to AA+ from AAA in 2009 as debt levels climbed.

2. World Nuclear News - Areva is to fit all 23 Japanese pressurized water reactors with hydrogen recombiners that help to prevent the explosive gas building up in emergency situations.

Many nuclear operators installed systems to manage hydrogen after the partial core melt at Three Mile Island in 1979. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Japan. During the accident at Fukushima Daiichi last year, many hours without power for cooling water pumps saw nuclear fuel in the cores of units 1, 2 and 3 overheat to the point that zirconium fuel cladding oxidised in the presence of steam, producing hydrogen and oxygen. At units 1 and 3 this was able to escape the containment and concentrate in the tops of the buildings, where it eventually exploded and caused extensive physical damage to those units as well as unit 4.

Areva said it will install more than 100 of its devices at the Japanese pressurized water reactors, which make up 23 of the country's 50-reactor fleet. The reactor type is used at the following Japanese nuclear power plants: Ikata, Mihama, Ohi, Sendai, Takahama, Tsuruga, Tomari and Genkai.

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