Uranium Market Glowing Green

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The relentless rise in demand for electricity has resulted in nuclear reactors ramping up production almost to capacity. In 2007, U.S. nuclear reactors operated at record capacity of 91.8% and generated a record 806.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Meanwhile, a new generation of nuclear reactors is already under construction or in advanced stages of planning.

From copper to gold, from oil to natural gas, prices for the earth's riches have skyrocketed in the past few years as emerging markets added vast demand and speculators revved up markets in ways never seen before.

But one commodity trumped them all: uranium. For decades, the trade belonged to a handful of insiders who kept prices level and deals quiet. All the key players could fit in a single Starbucks. Not anymore.

The world's insatiable thirst for new energy supplies has fueled a quiet resurgence of interest in nuclear energy, and the market is changing fast. New entrants are now knocking elbows with entrenched insiders for influence over the future of nuclear fuel and the market where it is bought and sold.

The predictable result: The price of uranium exploded, peaking at a price of somewhere between $136 and $138 a pound, a stunning 1,365% rise from the early '90s, when uranium prices fell below $10. That outpaced even gold, which rose 400% during that time. But since prices dipped to more modest levels this year, investors are calling for change in the uranium game. The fact that there isn't even agreement on pricing shows how immature the market remains...

The relentless rise in demand for electricity has resulted in nuclear reactors ramping up production almost to capacity. In 2007, U.S. nuclear reactors operated at record capacity of 91.8% and generated a record 806.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Meanwhile, a new generation of nuclear reactors is already under construction or in advanced stages of planning.

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