The price of uranium has soared by almost 20 per cent this week, to a record $113 (£57.59) per pound, fulfilling the expectations of those who expected it to break through the $100 mark this year.

The rise, prompted by a shortage of the metal and an interest in nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuel, has been accompanied by a flurry of activity in the industry as companies scrabble for the scarce resource.

The French nuclear group Areva today announced it had taken an initial 9 per cent stake in Summit Resources Ltd, the Australian uranium explorer. It looks set to take up the option of doubling the holding to 18 per cent. The move has been viewed as a strategic step to block a hostile £417 million takeover of Summit by the mining company Paladin Resources.

Mitsubishi Development, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, announced its intention today to take 50 per cent of a CanAlaska mining scheme.

In addition, the Texas-based Uranium Resources Inc announced that it has won approval to list on NASDAQ from tomorrow.

The surge in price, which takes the value of uranium to its highest level since the 1970s, lends weight to the forecasts of analysts who had earlier predicted that prices could reach $125 a pound this year and $140 a pound in 2008.

In 2002, the metal's price stood below $10 a pound.