Trump's 2021 budget proposes $150 million for creation of uranium reserve

February 11, 2020

The 2021 budget proposed by president Donald Trump includes $150 for the creation of a U.S. uranium reserve.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters in a teleconference on the Energy Department’s budget that if approved by Congress, the money would be used to begin the process of purchasing uranium. The proposed budget did not include information about where the reserve would be built.

Reuters reported that Brouillette also said the budget represents a push by Trump to challenge the global expansion of nuclear power development by Chinese and Russian companies.

Trump “has decided that we’re going to meet them anywhere that they go around the world, and this ... is the very first step that we will take to put the United States back into this competitive game,” Brouillette said.

U.S. uranium mining firms, as well as more than two dozen western state lawmakers, have argued that nuclear generators rely heavily on adversaries including Russia, China and Kazakhstan for uranium supply from their state-owned companies, which flood the market.

Budget documents said a reserve addresses immediate challenges to domestic uranium production and “provides assurance of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption.”

Similar to the U.S. coal market, the U.S. nuclear energy industry has struggled to compete with low prices for natural gas. Since 2013, nearly 10 nuclear power plants have been closed and eight more are scheduled to shut in coming years.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Colorado-based uranium producer cheered the proposal.

“This is an important step toward addressing the devastating impact of our nation's overdependence on uranium imports from Russia and its allies, which is displacing free market uranium and forcing U.S. mines out of business. Additionally, the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group is continuing to undertake a comprehensive review of the fuel cycle, and we look forward to additional actions,” said Mark Chalmers, president and CEO of Colorado based Energy Fuels Inc. “We also look forward to working with the U.S. government on implementing the programs needed to revive and expand domestic uranium mining.”

The idea for a reserve was recommended by industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute to the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, a panel set up by Trump to spur ideas to help domestic mining. Nima Ashkeboussi, an NEI fuel expert, praised the administration for “recognizing the importance of a domestic uranium fuel supply.”

Trump set up the working group last year after declining to set production quotas for domestic uranium, amid concerns they could raise prices for nuclear plants in swing states like Pennsylvania ahead of next year’s election.

Photo: Energy Fuels' White Mesa Mill.
 

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