By - Jim Vess

U.S. uranium production dives in Q3 as Trump administration punts on quotas

Energize Weekly, November 13, 2019

U.S. production of uranium concentrate plummeted 27 percent in the third quarter of 2019 to 32,211 pounds after the Trump administration balked at setting quotas for uranium imports.

Production was down 94 percent when compared with the third quarter of 2018, according to the federal Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Domestic Uranium Production Report.

Since 2014, when 4.8 million pounds of uranium concentrate was domestically produced, production has been in steady decline. So far, 135,261 pounds have been made through three quarters in 2019.

Two American uranium mining companies – Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels­ – had sought an inquiry into whether foreign producers had flooded the U.S. market, putting domestic operation at a competitive disadvantage.

In 2017, domestic uranium companies accounted for 3 million pounds, just 7 percent of 40 million pounds purchased by U.S. nuclear power plant operators, the primary market for uranium, according to the EIA.

More than 84 percent of the total uranium concentrate used in 2017 came from five countries: Canada, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Canada accounted for 38 percent of the sales and Australia for 21 percent.

A U.S. Department of Commerce review agreed with the domestic uranium companies that foreign imports were hurting the domestic industry, but the nuclear power industry lobbied against the decision saying that it would boost the cost of running their power plants.

In July, President Donald Trump said he would not impose quotas and set up a committee – the Nuclear Fuel Working Group – to look into the issue and make “recommendations to further enable domestic nuclear fuel production if needed.”

The groups was supposed to deliver its report mid-October, but has been granted another 30 days to complete its work.

In the third quarter of 2019, uranium concentrate was produced by four facilities: the Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Ross CPP and Smith Ranch-Highland Operation. All are in Wyoming.

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