The US Administration's 2021 budget request unveiled yesterday by President Donald Trump includes USD150 million to set up a uranium reserve to address challenges to the production of domestic uranium. This would ensure a backup supply of uranium in the event of a significant market disruption and support the operation of at least two US uranium mines, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).(Image: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
The uranium reserve funding is part of USD1.3 billion requested for the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, which also includes USD295 million for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project. The DOE's total budget request is USD35.4 billion for the next fiscal year which begins on 1 October.
The new programme will help to "re-establish" the USA's nuclear fuel supply chain through the domestic production and conversion of uranium, the DOE said. The Office of Nuclear Energy would begin the procurement process for the reserve in fiscal 2021. According to the budget request, the USD150 million would remain available "until expended".
"This action addresses immediate challenges to the production of domestic uranium and reflects the Administration's Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) priorities," the budget request notes. "The NFWG will continue to evaluate issues related to uranium supply chain and fuel supply."
The NFWG was established after Trump decided last July - in response to a Section 232 Petition from two US uranium miners - that uranium imports are not a threat to US national security. He did however call for a "fuller analysis" of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain, and set up the NFWG to look at ways of revitalising the domestic uranium industry. The full findings of the NFWG have yet to be released.
The single biggest item in the DOE request is for USD295 million to support construction of the proposed VTR. The proposal does not contain any allocation for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for used nuclear fuel, although security, maintenance, and environmental requirements for the project are included in the Interim Storage and Nuclear Waste Fund Oversight programme for which a total of USD28 million is requested.
The US Congress will now begin the process of finalising the budget bills that will eventually become law before the start of the next fiscal year.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News