Energy: Green Light for Yellowcake

Tapping a lode worth billions

Buried beneath Australia's remote, forbidding northern wilds is one-fifth of the world's known reserves of uranium, but they have been of no use to atomic-power plants. The government, fearful that mining would damage the Australian environment and that exports might encourage nuclear proliferation, has forbidden exports since 1973. Last week, however, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser decided to permit mining companies to develop and export the mammoth lode.

Supplies have become so tight that prices—squeezed up by a cartel of producers—rose from $7 a pound in 1972 to around $42...

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