Currently, 93% of the uranium needs of the North American country are resolved through imports, something that the US Government considered a threat to national security.
Russia, in particular, supplies nuclear fuel to the United States since 1987 and continued to do so even after relations between the two countries began to deteriorate in 2014.
The promising future of national production
The creation of the NFWG came after a request from the two main US uranium enrichment companies: Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy. The companies wanted Washington to impose the mandatory acquisition of quotas for the national production of enriched uranium both in the power plants and in the sphere of national defense, a measure that the president rejected.
The United States has been dependent on foreign uranium imports for a long time and therefore has few resources and incentives to invest in improving its own industry so that it can compete with global producers.
Already in the 1980s, the industry in the US suffered with high production costs of nuclear fuel due to the use of the gaseous diffusion method. Meanwhile, the USSR – and later Russia – used centrifuge technology, which requires about 50 times less energy and produces higher concentrations of enriched uranium. It was at this time that Washington went on to import the fuel instead of developing it nationally.
The US nuclear fuel production industry currently suffers from high security costs, which makes it difficult to compete with cheaper foreign fuels. Domestic uranium mining also suffers with similar problems. Even if the North American country has numerous preserved uranium wells, a large investment would be needed to reopen them in a way that does not violate current US environmental protection laws.