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Senate Moves to Onshore Uranium Production

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to create a Nuclear Fuel Security Program aimed at bolstering U.S. supplies of enriched uranium, according to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

What’s going on: On Thursday, the Senate voted 96–3 to include Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) Nuclear Fuel Security Act amendment in next fiscal year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

  • The “[a]mendment … directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize activities to increase domestic production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for existing reactors and accelerate efforts to ensure the availability of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) for advanced reactors,” according to the committee press release.
  • The bipartisan measure was introduced in February by Sens. Barrasso, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jim Risch (R-ID); in May, it was passed by voice vote.

Why it’s important: Most of the advanced nuclear reactor concepts set to come online in the next few years require HALEU—and Russia is the only viable commercial supplier, according to E&E News’ ENERGYWIRE (subscription).

  • “Russia now supplies 24% of our enriched uranium imports,” Sen. Barrasso said before the committee on Thursday. “We spend nearly $1 billion each year on Russian uranium. Russia uses these revenues to fund its invasion of Ukraine. Here in America, we have the resources to fuel our own reactors. My amendment authorizes the Department of Energy to take the steps necessary to expand U.S. nuclear fuel production.”

​​​​​​​The NAM’s role: The NAM has strongly advocated for the development of nuclear energy, which will play a critical role in U.S. energy security and decarbonization efforts.

  • As NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told Congress in June, “Nuclear energy can help the U.S. generate more clean energy, stabilize our grids and improve our energy security.”
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