Nuclear industry urges Trump administration to revive uranium mining with Cold War-era rule

September 10, 2019

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has sent a letter to the Trump administration asking it to revive domestic uranium mining and enrichment by unlocking funds through a Cold War-era program.

Reuters reported that the Aug. 18 letter from the NEI to national security adviser John Bolton and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, urges the Trump administration to authorize funds through the 1950 Defense Production Act to procure domestic fuel for defense requirements and boost federal reserves of uranium for nuclear power utilities.

"The most effective support the federal government can provide to the domestic mining, conversion, and enrichment industries is to fulfil the government's national security needs with long-term contracts," the letter says.

The letter asks for unspecified "direct payments to either a U.S. utility or domestic uranium producer for sale of U.S.-origin uranium to a utility."

The move could be a boost for the industry which has seen nine nuclear plants close since 2013 with eight more scheduled to close in coming year. However, some experts say the boost would be unnecessary as the United States has enough uranium in stockpiles including the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee for submarines, air craft carriers, weapons and energy for decades.

U.S. nuclear companies are concerned that China and Russia are taking the lead in developing nuclear power abroad. The United States does not have a domestic technology enrichment facility, and NEI says reviving that industry will help it compete.

Kudlow and Bolton, who terminated from his position as National Security Advisor on Sept. 10, were co-chairs of the United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group, which President Donald Trump created in July after he rejected a section 232 petition by two U.S. uranium mining companies seeking quotas for domestic production.

The working group was expected to make recommendations for reviving and expanding domestic fuel production by Oct. 10. The White House did not comment on the discussions.

Mark Chalmers, president of Energy Fuels which along with Ur-Energy Inc filed the unsuccessful petition, told Reuters that the discussions have focused on how to create a fully integrated domestic fuel cycle for the nuclear industry - from uranium to enrichment - similar to what countries like France or China already have.

"They are discussing whether the government will step in as buyers of domestically mined uranium, which has been classified as a critical mineral and necessary for national security," he said.

Chalmers said the miners now have the support of NEI, which strongly opposed their trade petition because it would have raised costs for power utilities, to pursue federal support for reviving domestic mining and uranium enrichment.
 

Photo: Energy Fuels, White Mesa Mill

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