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It's no secret that shares of uranium producers have been very hit hard in the wake of Japan's struggles. After getting slammed, many miners have slowly drifted further downward. But this fact aside, we can't ignore that global uranium consumption has risen soundly during the past few decades. It has gone from 75 million pounds of uranium oxide in 1980 to a bit over 180 million pounds today.

In all reality, the billions of dollars put into this energy source will not be thrown away and the 440 reactors operating worldwide (with many more coming online) will need uranium.

We believe the nuclear fallout in Japan will remain contained, and other countries around the world will move ahead as planned (with the exception of Germany). Global interests in nuclear energy will then boost back up as a clean and reliable source of power and hold a position for growth and continued profitability.

If all goes well, uranium prices could steadily rise to near their pre-Japan crisis highs within a year or two. With higher oil prices, concerns over carbon emissions, and soaring demand for nuclear energy uranium prices could climb back up to $90, or even $140 a pound as they did in 2007 -- the same scenario the industry insiders have in mind for today.

As long as the uranium price doesn't stay down too long, there are great opportunities for investors to buy uranium stocks. For optimists and well-informed investors who can think more than a year ahead, we think it's an incredible buying opportunity. Here are some names we like right now:

PowerShares Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio (NYSEARCA:PKN): PNK invests no less than 90% of its assets in companies included in the WNA Nuclear Energy Index. The weighted exposure to Japanese securities make up almost one-fourth of the fund's portfolio. Despite its exposure, PKN managed to outperform its larger counterpart during this decline in nuclear worth. Top holdings of this fund include European-based nuclear companies such as Areva (OTCPK:ARVCF) and E.ON (OTCQX:EONGY), although Japanese firm Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) as well as a number of mining firms make their way into the top five holdings as well. At the time of writing, shares trade at $19.03 apiece on a P/E 15.

Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSEMKT:UEC): Although this company controls one of the largest databases of historic uranium exploration and development in the country, it's still only in its exploration stage.Its recent entry into uranium production has proven difficult, with a 25% decline in the past month. Uranium Energy's balance sheet is not particularly strong, and its current production is very small.

UEC did successfully open the Palangana mine recently, and its targeted production is one million pounds. A boutique uranium production could call for a better value. At the time of writing, shares trade at $3.06 apiece.

Global X Uranium ETF (NYSEARCA:URA): Given URA's extremely narrow focus in uranium, it took a hard hit in these couple of months. The fund, which normally trades about 300,000 shares per day, saw volume spike to just under three million shares at the peak of the Japan crisis. This ETF maintains a concentrated portfolio of about 25 holdings. URA tracks the Solactive Global Uranium Index and offers heavy weightings towards Cameco Corp., Uranium One (OTC:SXRZF), and Paladin Energy (OTCPK:PALAF). Slightly more than 50% of URA's assets are in companies in Canada, while another 31% is invested in Australian companies and about 14% is invested in U.S. firms. At the time of writing, shares trade at $12.14 apiece on a P/E 9.

Ur-Energy Inc (NYSEMKT:URG): URG is a small uranium miner company that is making big leaps in the uranium world. It should reach production within the next 12 months with the Lost Creek project. The company should have a production rate at about one million pounds. A project located beside Lost Creek will be able to use the same licenses granted, which will give it another one million lbs per year in production. The company is fully funded into production. At the time of writing, shares trade at $1.49 apiece.

Uranium Resources, Inc. (NASDAQ:URRE): Uranium Resources Inc. owns developed and undeveloped uranium properties in South Texas and undeveloped uranium properties in New Mexico. The URRE Kingsville Dome and Rosita projects are potential producers of significant amounts of uranium. At the time of writing, shares trade at $1.69 apiece.

Uranerz Energy Corp. (NYSEMKT:URZ): Uranerz Energy Corporation is a U.S. uranium exploration and production company. Based in a historically cooperative mining state, it's in advanced uranium development in Wyoming. URZ holds roughly five properties high in reserve. Uranerz signed two agreements to provide uranium for five years to Exelon. At the time of writing, shares trade at $3.13 apiece.

Cameco Corp (NYSE:CCJ): Cameco produces almost 16% of the world's uranium with high grade reserves and low-cost operations. The CEO states that Japan might only impact the company's sales by 3-5%.CCJ owns many of the world's highest-grade uranium deposits. The McArthur River mine in Saskatchewan has ore grade concentrations 100 times higher than the industry average. At the time of writing, shares trade at $26.58 apiece on a P/E 22.15.

Denison Mines Corp (NYSEMKT:DNN): In 2010, Denison produced 1.6 million pounds of uranium. Its Wheeler River discovery could have ore grade concentrations like CCJ's McArthur River or Cigar Lake. As well as producing uranium, DNN also produces vanadium. Denison Mines is currently debt-free with $78 million in working capital. Right now, there is an opportunity to average into one of the top small cap uranium mining stocks at very nice prices. At the time of writing, shares trade at $1.88 apiece.

Source: 8 Inexpensive Uranium Stocks to Consider Now