MCCLEAN LAKE, Canada, July 24, 2007 (AFP) – Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster poisoned the world’s taste for reactors, a French firm is sniffing out fresh uranium supplies in Canada. And the race for nuclear power is back on. After the deadly Chernobyl reactor explosion in Ukraine in 1986 and a lesser scare at the Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania that rattled the United States in 1979, “people were wondering whether nuclear power even had a future,” said Yves Dufour, one of the directors of Areva, the world’s leading civilian nuclear power provider.

“For 20 years, we’ve been crossing a desert,” the industry’s very own “nuclear winter,” said Dufour.

The Three Mile Island meltdown apparently harmed no one but shook public confidence in nuclear plants. The fallout from Chernobyl, however, spread widely and affected an estimated five million people.

But now a breath of optimism is warming the sector up, just as it did during the petrol crisis of 1973.

Areva, based in France — which alone among western countries continued to build nuclear power plants after these scares — is angling for new uranium supplies for its reactors. Such prospecting declined sharply in the dark days after Chernobyl.

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