Trump budget proposes $150m for creation of uranium reserve

President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget proposed $150 million for the creation of a U.S. uranium reserve as the administration seeks to help struggling producers of the fuel for nuclear power reactors.

The money, if approved by Congress, would begin the process of purchasing uranium, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told reporters in a teleconference on the Energy Department’s budget.

Brouillette also said the budget represents a push by Trump to challenge the global expansion of nuclear power development by Chinese and Russian companies.

Trump “has decided that we’re going to meet them anywhere that they go around the world, and this … is the very first step that we will take to put the United States back into this competitive game,” Brouillette said.

U.S. uranium mining firms, as well as more than two dozen western state lawmakers, have argued that nuclear generators rely heavily on adversaries including Russia, China and Kazakhstan for uranium supply from their state-owned companies, which flood the market.

The budget, largely a political document that serves as a starting point for negotiations with Congress, did not outline where the reserve would be built.

Budget documents said a reserve addresses immediate challenges to domestic uranium production and “provides assurance of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption.”

The U.S. nuclear energy industry is suffering from high safety costs and low prices for natural gas, a competitor in generating electricity. Since 2013, nearly 10 nuclear power plants have been closed and eight more are scheduled to shut in coming years.

A mining company cheered the budget. Mark Chalmers, president and CEO of Colorado based Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc said a reserve would “preserve our strategic capacity to produce uranium for national security purposes.”

The idea for a reserve was recommended by industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute to the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, a panel set up by Trump to spur ideas to help domestic mining. Nima Ashkeboussi, an NEI fuel expert, praised the administration for “recognizing the importance of a domestic uranium fuel supply.”

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