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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 06:01 GMT
Canberra to sell uranium to China
Uranium mine in Kakadu national park
Australia has three working uranium mines, one in a national park
Australia will soon be able to export uranium to China, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said.

The two countries signed an agreement earlier this year, which means the exports can begin in 30 days, he said.

Australia has 40% of the world's recoverable uranium, while China needs a huge amount of energy for its large population and rising economy.

Beijing is keen to increase its use of nuclear power, to cut down its dependence on fossil fuels.

Two bilateral nuclear treaties - the Australia-China Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Co-operation Agreement - were signed in April during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Canberra.

The two countries had previously failed to reach a deal amid concerns China would use the uranium in its nuclear weapons programme.

Fossil fuels currently provide 80% of energy
Hydro-electric projects provide 18% of energy
Nuclear energy from nine reactors currently supplies 2%
Plans for 30 new reactors to be built by 2020
Nuclear power to account for 4% of national output by 2020
Sources: World Nuclear Association and Reuters

But these agreements are designed to ensure that any uranium exported to China will just be used for peaceful purposes.

Australia already exports uranium to more than 30 countries, but only does so under strict conditions.

India has also tried to buy Australian uranium, but unlike China it has yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and has so far failed to win approval for the purchase.

Huge demand

China is desperate for energy to fuel its booming economy.

The old coal mines that the country relies on cannot keep up with demand and there is not enough oil to go around.

With power shortages and blackouts in big cities common, the government is looking for new sources of energy and nuclear is top of the list.

Beijing wants to build 40 to 50 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years and a steady supply of uranium is vital.

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Country profile: China
30 Aug 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Australia
27 Sep 05 |  Country profiles

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