Uranium prices and miner-related exchange traded fund are rebounding as Asian countries shift to nuclear energy and cut back on greenhouse gas-emitting coal plants.

Since the Tuesday low, the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSEArca: URA), which tracks uranium miners, rose 5.0%. However, URA is still down 23.5% year-to-date.

Uranium prices have surged 35% since May, rebounding to $38 per pound from $28 per pound, their lowest level in nine years, reports Biman Mukherji for the Wall Street Journal. Nevertheless, uranium is still priced at half of where it was in early 2011.

“Everyone agrees that today’s prices are too low because you are not incentivizing new supply. The big question is: When will prices move higher? Because there are still significant inventories around since Fukushima,” John Ellis, investment manager at APAC Resources Ltd., said in the WSJ article.

The rare earth metals market received another boost Wednesday after Japan inched closer to reactivating its nuclear reactors, which were shuttered in the wake of the disastrous Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011. Japanese nuclear regulators gave a greenlight for two more reactors, raising the number of Japanese nuclear units to four next year. [Uranium ETF Recharges as Japan Opens Nuclear Plants]

Japan generated 30% of its energy needs from nuclear plants, but the country has relied on imported gas and coal since the 2011 disaster.

Uranium prices are gaining also speed on Chinese plans for nuclear-power plants to replace coal plants in an attempt to combat the heavy smog. China will build as many as 29 nuclear reactors.

Moreover, the rare earth metal may also be strengthening in response to sanctions against Russia – Russia produces about 5% of the world’s uranium and is a leading provider of enrichment services to Western utility companies.

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