Last week, the Biden administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) released its latest Critical Minerals Assessment. One interesting part of the report is the inclusion of uranium as a near-critical supply risk for the United States both in the short term and the medium term. Moreover, they concluded in the short term it ranks alongside lithium in its importance to energy in our economy.
According to DOE, uranium was included because in their scenarios, uranium demand would increase by 110 percent to meet their net zero emissions goals.
The Biden administration is concerned about uranium supply because 45 percent of uranium is produced in a single country (Kazakhstan), and Russia was the leading enrichment capacity country in 2020 and held a market share of 46%.” In fact, DOE writes, “Russia’s domination of the enrichment capacity poses a threat to the nuclear fuel supply for those countries that are not allies of Russia.”
As DOE has previously noted, Russia is tied with Australia as the 3rd largest uranium source for the United States supplying 14 percent of US uranium. In fact, the US only supplies 5 percent of the uranium we use. And even worse, U.S. uranium concentrate production has essentially stopped:
During the booming times of uranium in the U.S. (from around the late 1960’s until the mid-1980’s) there were 26 mills to process ore mined by conventional underground or open pit mines. The only one remaining today is the White Mesa mill of Energy Fuels in Blanding, UT. There aren’t any conventional mines today, so it processes (i.e., cleans up or removes uranium from) 11(e)2 waste from various locations.
With these revelations, it seems obvious that the Biden administration would start working to make sure the United States increases uranium mining. Right, RIGHT? Wrong. The Biden administration is doing the exact opposite.
The Washington Post is reporting that President Biden is planning a trip to Arizona this week and that he “is leaning toward designating a vast area near the Grand Canyon as a national monument to safeguard it from uranium mining…” There is no uranium mining proposed in the Grand Canyon, although opponents of nuclear power and its attendant uranium mining try their best to confuse casual observers of the news by mentioning the Grand Canyon. This is simply a land grab using the Grand Canyon as an icon to disguise an anti-nuclear power agenda. In 2022, nuclear continued to be the largest single source of carbon-free electricity generation in the United States, producing more than wind and solar combined and providing 19% of all electricity.
The next time the Biden administration talks about climate change or net zero, remember they have zero interest in doing things like increasing uranium mining in the United States that would make us more energy secure and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They also seem not to care about the Russian predominance in nuclear fuel process. The Biden administration is only interested in taking actions that increase the federal government’s power while giving money to the right special interest groups—not actually reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Lastly, a few months ago, we produced a report on mining The Economic and Strategic Importance of Domestic Mineral Production. In that report, we detailed how Biden’s “net zero” carbon emissions policy requires significantly more critical minerals, how China dominates those supply chains., and how the Biden administration is stifling new mining in the United States. Sadly, it turns out that a very similar story is true of uranium as with other minerals.