EPA awards $220 million in uranium mine cleanup contracts

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for cleanup efforts at more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites in and around the Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States. The Navaho Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts, worth up to $220 million over the next five years, were awarded to the Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management, and Arrowhead Contracting, the agency announced on February 11.

According to the EPA, the cleanup work is slated to begin later this year, following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation EPA, the tribe’s environmental agency. The sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and 10 Navajo Nation chapters. The companies selected have experience working on hazardous waste sites across the country, including cleaning up other abandoned mine sites in the Southwest, the EPA said.

DOE lists five stories to watch in 2021

Despite all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. nuclear energy community pulled out some big wins in 2020, and this year could be even bigger, according to the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

From deep space exploration on Mars to a historic new reactor coming online in Waynesboro, Ga., 2021 will be a record-breaking year for the industry—both good and potentially bad.

Find the full details on the DOE-NE website.

IAEA confirms Iran working on uranium metal for reactor fuel

Iran has started work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and Tehran said on Wednesday. Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that the country has started working on the fuel, saying that everything has been reported to the agency.

Iran's action is the latest breach of its nuclear deal with six significant powers as it presses for a lifting of U.S. sanctions.

Congress set to pass year-end funding bill

The final text of the approximately 5,600-page Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 was released on December 22. While the timing of final passage is still fluid, the Senate was expected to approve it and send it on to President Trump to sign into law, according to John Starkey, American Nuclear Society government relations director.

Below are some key funding highlights from the legislation pertaining to nuclear energy.

Uranium mining settlement could fund new cleanup industry

The Santa Fe New Mexican, in its October 24 edition, reported on a study by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research that found that the state could use money from a nearly $1- billion federal mining settlement to create a new industry around the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines in the Southwest.

Kazatomprom to continue reduced uranium production through 2022

Kazatomprom is extending uranium production cuts. Photo: Kazatomprom

Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium production company, will continue “flexing down” production by 20 percent through 2022, compared to the planned levels under subsoil use contracts, the company announced last week. It will also maintain its 20 percent reduction against subsoil use contracts in 2021, with no additional production planned to replace volumes lost in 2020 due to measures taken to combat COVID-19.

Kazatomprom does not expect to return to full subsoil use contract production levels until a sustained market recovery is evident and demand and supply conditions signal a need for more uranium, the company noted.

Barrasso: The future of nuclear energy is American

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) authored an op-ed that was published in the Casper Star Tribune this week on the importance of rebuilding domestic uranium production. The article was published on the heels of a draft Senate bill, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, that was released on July 29.

Court upholds Virginia ban on uranium mining

A Virginia circuit court judge has upheld the state’s 38-year-old moratorium on uranium mining, rejecting Virginia Uranium Inc.’s (VUI) argument that the ban was an unconstitutional violation of the company’s rights regarding its Coles Hill property. On July 27, Judge Chadwick Dotson ruled in the state’s favor, declaring that while the mining prohibition does amount to a taking or damaging of private property within the meaning of the state constitution, Virginia had a compelling interest to do so.

Record low uranium production noted as Congress debates reserve funding

Uranium producers around the world have suffered through years of record low uranium prices. In 2019 the United States recorded its lowest total uranium production—174,000 lb U3O8—since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began collecting data in 1949, according to the agency’s Today in Energy analysis of July 17.

U.S. uranium producers asked the federal government to come to their aid in January 2018, and President Donald Trump created the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) in July 2019. While the NFWG issued a report in April 2020 recommending support for the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium producers are in a waiting game once again as the U.S. House of Representatives works on Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations legislation.

DOE issues broad nuclear energy strategy

Brouillette

The long-awaited report from the Trump administration’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group promises immediate support for the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, but it doesn’t stop there. “This is a road map for what we think needs to be done to not only revitalize, but reestablish American leadership for this entire industry,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette as he introduced the report during a press call on April 23.

Nuclear energy is built on an actinide foundation

During the past several years, I have been following the progress of a strange situation in my adopted state of Virginia. Despite being a state with a long history of mining and mineral extraction, we have a law in place that forbids mining one specific element-uranium. The law is technically just a temporary moratorium put in place in order to give the state's regulators time to draft effective regulations, but the law enacting the moratorium was put into place more than 30 years ago.

Do oil and gas suppliers worry about nuclear energy development?

The world oil market is not a free market. Prices are manipulated by a small number of producers that adjust production rates to achieve desired prices that are high enough to provide maximum profits, without being high enough to encourage customers to aggressively pursue alternative energy sources.

Building support for uranium mining in Virginia

One of the single most valuable pieces of energy real estate in the United States is located a few miles outside of Chatham, Virginia, less than an hour's drive from my home. Millions of years ago, natural forces concentrated about 119 million pounds of uranium in a relatively small volume of what is now a cow pasture. That is enough raw material to supply all of the nuclear power plants in the United States with all of their fuel needs for a little more than two years. If valued at today's suppressed, post-Fukushima market price, the deposit is worth about $7 billion.