“Our ability to produce domestic nuclear fuel is on the verge of a collapse,” Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal said in an article posted on the DOE’s website on May 11. “This is not an easy problem to fix, but the United States has a plan.”
The need: In the May 11 article, Baranwal pointed out that 90 percent of the uranium fuel used today in U.S. reactors is produced by foreign countries. She added, “Our uranium miners are eager for work, the nation’s only uranium conversion plant is idle due to poor market conditions, and our inability to compete with foreign state-owned enterprises (most notably from China and Russia) is not only threatening our energy security but weakening our ability to influence the peaceful uses of nuclear around the world.”
The plan: Baranwal described the recommendations of the Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG), released April 23 by Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, which constitutes a roadmap for revitalizing the domestic nuclear industry. For more information on the strategy to restore American nuclear energy leadership see Nuclear News coverage in Newswire.
The first step described in the Nuclear Fuel Working Group’s report is for the DOE to establish a uranium reserve managed by the Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE). “Establishing the Uranium Reserve program is exactly what we need at this crucial time to de-risk our nuclear fuel supply,” Baranwal said.
Future investments: DOE-NE will initiate a competitive procurement process to establish the uranium reserve program within the next year. Baranwal also indicated that additional support—including for enrichment needs—will be considered as market conditions evolve and after first addressing near-term pressure on uranium mining and conversion.
“We’re investing in the infrastructure and programs now to help usher in a new era for nuclear in the near future. It’s one that will ultimately lead to lower emissions, new jobs, and an even stronger economy,” Baranwal said. “It’s time to get to work.”