Trump administration unveils plan to rescue US uranium mining

Photo courtesy of The White House via Flickr

The Trump administration released a report on Thursday outlining its plan to revitalize the US nuclear energy industry and support domestic uranium mining amid concerns that the nation has lost its spotlight on the global nuclear technology stage.

The report was compiled by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group — a task force appointed by President Donald Trump in July to undertake a detailed analysis of the US nuclear fuel supply chain — and submitted to the US Energy Department.

Recommendations include making direct purchases of 17 to 19 Mlb of U3O8 to establish a uranium reserve beginning in 2020

The report made several key recommendations to the US government, including streamlining the permitting process for public land access, making it faster and easier to mine uranium — an essential mineral for nuclear power.

For miners, notable recommendations include making direct purchases of 17 to 19 Mlb of U3O8 to establish a uranium reserve beginning in 2020, which would provide direct support to the front end of the fuel cycle and support the operation of at least two US uranium mines.

The report also includes President Trump’s earlier request to Congress for a uranium reserve and a $1.5 billion budget over 10 years to make direct purchases from domestic producers.

Republican lawmakers and uranium producers have long called for measures to boost US uranium mining and the nuclear energy industry, which the report says was at “high risk of insolvency.”

US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. Photo: US Embassy & Consulates in Brazil

Over recent years, US nuclear power producers and uranium miners have suffered from a lack of investment and support. Last year, Trump rejected a request by the county’s top two uranium producers Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy seeking 25% purchasing quotas for domestic uranium output.

The report also recommended extending an agreement to limit Russian uranium imports as well as denying imports from China, and funding research and development on new types of reactors and fuels.

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said the report contains a “road map for what we think needs to be done to not only revitalize but re-establish American leadership in this entire industry.”

He added that it is possible for Trump to issue executive orders to support the findings of the report.

However, opponents of the government’s efforts to bolster the nuclear sector are concerned these recommendations would increase mining near national parks and harm public health. Some also argue that the nation already supplies uranium at competitive prices, and the government has attempted similar endeavours to save the coal industry.

US companies currently provide only 10% of the domestic uranium purchases, with more than 60% of supplies imported from allies like Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan.