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article imageTrump asks for $1.5 billion to prop up U.S. uranium mining

By Karen Graham     Feb 14, 2020 in Politics
The Trump administration’s newly proposed budget would throw a $1.5 billion lifeline to the struggling U.S. uranium industry, long battered by declining demand and cheap imports.
Much like President Donald Trump's quixotic attempt to revive the failing coal industry in the United States, he has taken on another quest - reviving the dormant uranium mining sector. Again, he is claiming the funding is needed because relying on cheaper imports is a matter of vital energy security.
If Trump's request is approved by Congress, the proposed “uranium reserve” would spend up to $150 million annually for 10 years to buy domestically sourced uranium, most of it mined in Utah and neighboring states, to protect the nation “in the event of market disruption," according to the Associated Press.
But lawmakers and market analysts across the political spectrum are looking at the proposal as nothing more than the administration trying to help a few uranium companies out of a financial bind because they can't compete in the global market.
Table 1. U.S. uranium drilling activities  2005–2018
Table 1. U.S. uranium drilling activities, 2005–2018
Added to this is the fact that demand for nuclear fuel has fallen worldwide since Japan's 2011 Fukushima disaster and a number of aging nuclear reactors worldwide have been taken offline. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported Thursday that uranium production had fallen 96 percent over the past five years.
According to EIA records, at the end of 2018, five U.S. uranium ISL plants were operating with a combined capacity of 10.9 million pounds U-3O8 per year. There were 372 full-time employees, down 12 percent from 2017, and the lowest, overall, since 2003.
Expenditures for U.S. uranium production, including facility expenses, were the largest category of expenditures in 2018 at $66 million, down by 16% from the 2017 level and the lowest total since 2006.
Figure 3. Employment in the U.S. uranium production industry by category  2005–2018
Figure 3. Employment in the U.S. uranium production industry by category, 2005–2018
Basically, it goes back to the president making it his top political priority to bail out the U.S. nuclear and coal industries, and he is quick to attach the necessary "national security' label to his request.
"It’s not the responsibility of the taxpayer to bail out an industry, whether that’s uranium, solar, coal, what have you,” said Katie Tubb, a senior energy policy analyst at the conservative Washington Heritage Foundation.
(5/25/2011) liner anchor trench. The trench dug out by the EPA was used to store the 20 000 cubic ya...
(5/25/2011) liner anchor trench. The trench dug out by the EPA was used to store the 20,000 cubic yards of contaminatred soil from the uranium mines on the Navaho Nation.
While it is not the public's responsibility to bail out failing companies, the clean-up of abandoned uranium mining and production sites has fallen to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - funded by our tax dollars. Uranium mining and processing carry with it a range of potential health risks to the people who work in or live near uranium mining and processing facilities.
Out of 50 present and former uranium milling sites in 12 states, 24 have been abandoned, and are the responsibility of the US Department of Energy. In 2008, the EPA started a five-year clean-up on the Navaho Indian Reservation, with its first task being to remove 20,000 cubic yards of contaminated earth from the Skyline Mine area.
All this information leads some people to ask why President Trump really wants to bail out a few uranium companies? Trying to rein in spending at the federal level is obviously not working too well.
More about Trump, budget request, US uranium production, national security issue, falling demand
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