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Most of the United States’ supply of uranium - the life-blood of nuclear power reactors - is imported, according to a new report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and domestic production has reached historic lows.
The most popular sources of the radioactive substance for American nuclear power plant operators are Kazakhstan and Canada, which exported 17 and 11 million pounds of uranium to the U.S. in 2015, respectively.
In total, 57 million pounds of the element entered the country in 2015.
The domestic production lows correlate with the weak spot price for uranium caused by national oversupply, the government agency said.
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“Annual uranium purchases have exceeded the amount of uranium loaded into reactors,” the report reads. “The amount of uranium fuel loaded into U.S. nuclear power reactors averaged 49 million pounds per year from 2004 through 2015, so uranium inventories totaling 121 million pounds at the end of 2015 could provide more than two years of uranium loadings.”
American uranium production began in 1949 and peaked in 1980 as the Cold War escalated and the number of active nuclear weapons owned by the government and military increased.
Between 2014 and 2015, uranium production decreased by 3.4 percent, according to another EIA report released earlier this month.
The first quarter of this year saw the production of just 0.63 million pounds of U3O8, all of which came from two states – Nebraska and Wyoming. At this rate, the EIA expects a year-long total of 2.5 million pounds of domestically-produced uranium.
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Texas and Utah hosted producers until the third quarter of last year and the sole Nebraskan manufacturer will be cutting its supplies over the course of 2016.
Wyoming represents the only state in the nation where new uranium suppliers have begun operations, but older firms have also said they would be scaling back.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…