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House appropriators' decision to not fund uranium reserve is 'really bad news'

Washington — The recent decision by the US House Committee on Appropriations to not provide $150 million in funding for a uranium reserve requested by the Department of Energy for fiscal 2021 is "really, really bad news" and marks the "demise of the remaining US [uranium mining] industry," an industry source said July 15.

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"Maybe the Republican [majority] Senate [will] save the day," the source said, referring to the energy and water development appropriations bill for fiscal year 2021 under development by the US Senate.

The Trump administration requested in February $150 million per year over 10 years in DOE's fiscal 2021 budget to create the reserve, as was proposed in an April 23 report by the US Nuclear Fuel Working Group.

The NFWG said the federal government should purchase 17 million-19 million lb U3O8 beginning in 2020; 6,000-7,500 mtU of UF6 in conversion services beginning no later than 2022; and domestic enrichment services "possibly in the 2023 timeframe."

In July 2019, President Donald Trump created the working group to provide recommendations for revitalizing the domestic fuel cycle industry, after he rejected a January 2018 petition from US uranium producers seeking limits on uranium imports.

Lawmakers, in a July 13 report accompanying the House version of the energy and water development appropriations bill, said DOE "has been unable to provide specific information about how ... the funds would be spent, including the process for the purchase, conversion, or sale of uranium in a reserve."

The committee "is concerned about the lack of justification for a reserve and potential market implications of establishing a reserve for commercial purposes," the report said.

An analyst said July 15 that DOE "lack[s] details and process on the procurement side. I don't know if it is intentional, they lack competence, or are delaying their plan."

"This seems like it could go away quickly if DOE would just answer the questions," a utility fuel buyer said July 15.

The report also directed DOE to submit a plan for the proposed establishment of a uranium reserve within six months of the appropriations bill's enactment.

A producer said July 15 the House Committee "is effectively giving DOE the nod to go ahead and develop the [uranium reserve] plan."

Rita Baranwal, DOE assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, said in May that her office "will initiate a competitive procurement process for establishing the Uranium Reserve program within the next year." DOE officials have declined since April to provide details of that procurement process.

DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

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