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To Invest in Sweden’s Uranium Exploration or Not?

There is a compelling political development in Sweden you should know about. The outcome could very well impact the world’s anti-nuclear movement and open the doors to a wave of more aggressive nuclear energy build up. Sweden has long been a bellwether for social progress and change. Shortly after Three Mile Island, the Swedes held a referendum on expanding nuclear energy in their country. Sweden voted it down. But, political climates change.

What happens in Sweden could help change attitudes toward nuclear energy in Australia, Germany and elsewhere. A country’s election can have a widespread ripple effect on an industry. Sweden’s four-party opposition bloc, known as the Alliance, is challenging the Social Democrat-led government for control of the Riksdag, the country’s parliament. One of the Alliance’s main objectives is to cut the country’s property tax, and eventually remove it. Each year, Swedes must pay a tax equivalent to one percent of a single family home’s tax value.

The other item on the Alliance’s agenda is moving forward with the country’s nuclear energy policy. Exactly two months from now, on September 17th, we predict Swedish voters will choose the center-right alliance, comprised of the Moderates, Liberals, Christian Democrats and the Centre party. Amid other reforms, Sweden’s nuclear energy and uranium policies may be revived. The Centre party, which had supported phasing out nuclear power, has now thrown in its lot with the Alliance, realizing there isn’t an alternative to nuclear for the time being. Sweden’s Dependency on Nuclear Energy At first glance, we bought the same anti-nuclear propaganda the rest of the world’s media swallowed. In other words, we were misled into believing Sweden was phasing out its nuclear power plants. Perhaps, you had also concluded Sweden was shutting down its nuclear fleet. The reality is quite the opposite. Only two reactors have been shut down – one in November 1999 and another in June 2005. The country’s ten nuclear reactors produce about 75 billion kWh.

This has accounted for as much as 51 percent of Sweden’s electricity production! In 2005, about four percent of Sweden’s electricity was exported. The major media would have us believe Swedes are anti-nuclear. This conclusion was reached after Sweden’s 1980 referendum on the country’s nuclear power program. But, Swedish voters were offered three very limited choices about continuing the build up on Sweden’s nuclear energy program, to which the answers could only have been: NO, No and no, depending upon the loudness with which a voter voiced his “no.” Few were surprised at the outcome. Yet, no reactors were phased out until nearly two decades later. What was never publicized was that a clear majority of the Swedish voters believed the existing reactors should continue running until new energy sources replaced nuclear. A 1996 survey conducted by the Confederation of Swedish Industries appalled the anti-nuclear movement – about 80 percent of those surveyed were in favor of nuclear power. Subsequent Swedish polls showed as few as 10 percent of those surveyed wanted nuclear energy phased out. About the same percentage wants to protect Sweden’s four remaining rivers from future hydro construction.

By contrast, three-quarters of Swedes polled gave “restraining greenhouse gas emissions” the highest environmental priority. Sweden depends upon fossil fuels for less than ten percent of its electricity generation. You do the math. For future electricity generation, Swedes must face a choice between increasing their nuclear power capacity and escalating their meager dependence upon fossil fuels. A March 2005 poll revealed an astounding 83 percent of those surveyed would support the country’s plans to maintain, or even increase, its nuclear power program. The choice may already exist in Swedish laws. A spokesman for the German Atomic Forum, Christian Woessner, pointed out in a recent media interview, “Under Swedish law the (nuclear) plants can not be closed until there is a viable alternative.” Because Sweden is about 47-percent dependent on nuclear power, Swedish parliament has repeatedly delayed plans to shut down it stations. What once were target dates of 2010 have been reportedly moved back as far away as the year 2050. A recent Swedish article discussed a summary of investments in the country’s energy sector through the end of the decade.

More than 25 percent will be invested in modernizing and upgrading Swedish nuclear plants. Increased Uranium Exploration Activity At this time, uranium mining is banned in Sweden. Will that soon change? In November 2005, Platts carried a news item that the world’s second largest uranium producer Cogema, a subsidiary of Areva, was spending about 1.7 million euros on prospecting in Sweden. The industry giant announced plans to narrow down mining sites, after its initial prospecting. Krister Soederholm, chief inspector of mining at the Ministry of Trade & Industry, told Platts that Sweden would respond positively if Cogema’s activity “would be of significant benefit to the country.” Conscientious Sweden is still reeling from a recent media expose showing that the country now imports a large portion of its uranium from Kazakhstan, where mining conditions are reportedly abysmal. On July 11th, one Canadian-traded uranium development company announced its NI 43-101 resource for three of its uranium properties in Sweden. We spoke with Michael Hudson, Chief Executive of Mawson Resources (TSX: MAW; Frankfurt: MRY), about the company’s prospects.


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