With that in mind, the US, which recently declared an emergency due to a lack of electricity generation capacity and which has 93 nuclear reactors covering 18.7% of the country’s electricity needs, is now working on a ‘broad uranium strategy,’ as the US, more than any other country, relies on Russia, which accounts for 16.5% of U-235 imports and 23% of total enrichment services in the US. The Biden administration is pushing Congress to support an ambitious $4.3 billion plan to buy enriched uranium directly from domestic suppliers to wean the US off Russian imports.
While CIS supplies of yellowcake, which is processed from naturally occurring uranium ore, can be substituted rather quickly with those from Canada or Australia, access to enriched fuel requires major capital spending on technological infrastructure. Since the US enrichment industry was effectively liquidated in 1993, there is now only one operating enrichment plant in the US with an annual capacity of 4.9 million SWU, which can meet just one-third of domestic demand.
When it comes to delivering on planned goals, it’s not only money that matters but also time. Considering that the rollout of new enrichment infrastructure will take quite a while, Congress authorized $75 million to establish a strategic uranium reserve (US nuclear power plants typically refuel every 18 to 24 months). This also needs to be taken into account when building a global energy model.