US uranium reserve proposal receives positive response

13 February 2020

US uranium companies have responded favourably to the Administration's 2021 budget request of USD150 million in funding to set up a uranium reserve. Energy Fuels CEO and President Mark Chalmers said the development was "an important step toward addressing the devastating impact of our nation's overdependence on uranium imports from Russia and its allies, which is displacing free market uranium and forcing US mines out of business".

The White Mesa mill is the only operational conventional uranium mill in the USA (Image: Energy Fuels)

In the budget request, which was unveiled on 10 February, the US Department of Energy (DOE) said the reserve would be part of efforts to help "re-establish" the USA's nuclear fuel supply chain through the domestic production and conversion of uranium. According to DOE, it reflects the priorities of the Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) which was set up following a July 2019 presidential decision in response to a Section 232 Petition from two US uranium miners, Energy Fuels Inc and Ur-Energy.

Energy Fuels is the owner of the White Mesa mill in Utah which is the only operating conventional uranium mill in the USA, as well as in-situ leach (ISL) projects at Nichols Ranch in Wyoming and Alta Mesa in Texas. "[W]e believe we are well-positioned to provide a significant portion of the uranium needed for the reserve … and we are able to commence ramping up production immediately," Chalmers said.

Wayne Heili, managing director and CEO of Australia-based Peninsula Energy, said around 2 to 3 million pounds U3O8 (769-1154tU) of US-mined uranium, depending on price, would be required for the reserve's initial purchases. Peninsula, which owns the Lance uranium project in Wyoming, "stands ready to provide uranium to help meet the strategic needs of the United States", he said.

Azarga Uranium Corp President and CEO Blake Steele said the annual USD150 million request to establish the strategic reserve would equate to USD1.5 billion between 2021 and 2030. The company is continuing to "de-risk" the advanced-stage Dewey Burdock ISL project in South Dakota, and "anticipates being well positioned to realise the benefits of the Administration's support of the United States nuclear industry", he said.

Vancouver-based Anfield Resources has 25 Wyoming-based uranium projects including the advanced Charlie project, for which it completed a preliminary economic assessment last September. The company said it is "well-positioned" to contribute to the reserve. Anfield CEO Corey Dias said the proposal to create a strategic uranium reserve was a "critical first step" to provide US producers with a "dedicated, improved domestic market" for their material. "Moreover, the NFWG may have additional recommendations on which the Administration might act that could further improve the prospects of US-based uranium miners and producers," he said.

The proposed budget is subject to appropriation by the US Congress.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News