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Energy and Environment

Trump Budget Would Throw A Lifeline To The West’s Uranium Producers

Tan boxes house injection and recovery wells at the Nichols Ranch in-situ mining operation in northeastern Wyoming.
Tan boxes house injection and recovery wells at the Nichols Ranch in-situ mining operation in northeastern Wyoming.

As part of its budget plan, the Trump administration proposes spending $150 million for a new uranium reserve. That could help struggling uranium mining companies in the Mountain West. But the idea has its critics.

 Click 'play' to hear the audio version of this story.

U.S. nuclear plants need uranium, but uranium companies here have a hard time competing on the global scale. So we import about 90% of our uranium from other countries like Canada, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The Trump administration wants to pay for a U.S.-mined uranium reserve in case of international turmoil — and to boost an industry that in 2018 saw production drop to its lowest level in nearly 70 years .That year, as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported, uranium concentrate was produced at seven facilities in the U.S.: one uranium mill in Utah and six in-situ leach plants in Wyoming and Nebraska.

“The uranium industry is vital to Wyoming and the national security of the United States,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I support President Trump’s bold and forward-thinking proposal to establish a domestic uranium reserve.”

But Geoff Fettus, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is quick to pan the plan.

“It’s a terrible idea,” he said. “And it’s a wasteful solution that’s in search of a problem.”

Fettus said the U.S. relies on other countries’ uranium because it’s higher grade, and notes that we have stable relationships with top producers like Canada and Australia. He opposes creating demand for more uranium mining in the West, which has a checkered past including water and land contamination.

Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News

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