Embracing Uranium’s New Dawn: A Strategic Imperative for America

Author: Rich Nolan
Rich Nolan discussing uranium mining policy and America's energy security

Our near-complete reliance on imported uranium has long been a glaring strategic vulnerability — exposing us to geopolitical risks and seriously undermining our national and energy security. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I don’t use the phrase “golden opportunity” lightly, but this moment is about more than mining a key resource; it’s an opportunity to seize and influence the future direction of global energy policies and practices. To address our irresponsible reliance on uranium imports, we must back responsible mining policy that helps America thrive in this moment as a secure, responsible supplier of choice for one of the world’s critical energy building blocks.

Promising Signs

Surging interest in uranium is reflected in the marketplace. As of February 2024, the uranium market is reaching notable milestones: uranium spot prices have reached a 16-year high not seen since 2007. This uptick is due to a series of factors, including a constrained nuclear fuel market, growing expectations for future demand and urgent work to reorient supply chains.

Buoyed by favorable market conditions, three new uranium mines in the U.S. began production at the end of last year in Arizona and Utah, and there is interest in ramping up additional production. While a promising sign of life for a deeply important industry, we can’t take our eyes off the ball.

The U.S. continues to operate the world’s largest fleet of commercial nuclear power plants that meet 20% of the nation’s power demand. And new efforts to develop and deploy advanced reactors promise to keep the U.S. at the forefront of the global nuclear industry. But leading can’t happen if we don’t have the secure nuclear fuel base we so critically need.

Getting Out from Under the Boot

Our current dependence on other countries for uranium supply is frustrating and unnecessary; especially considering our vast, domestic uranium reserves. We need to harness these resources to pivot from reliance on unfriendly foreign sources and build the secure nuclear fuel supply chains that our energy future and national security demand.

Geopolitical pressure to address nuclear supply chains provides important momentum to jumpstart domestic production, including ending nuclear fuel imports from Russia through the No Russia Act, establishing a national strategic uranium reserve and enacting the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, which prohibits the importation of any low-enriched uranium produced by the Russian Federation.

These legislative and potential administrative efforts both underscore the urgency to repatriate the nuclear cycle and highlight the strategic necessity for the U.S. to bolster our own domestic uranium production, ensuring a secure, reliable and independent energy future. We need to act. Even with the ongoing war in Ukraine, the U.S. continues to import an estimated $1 billion worth of Russian nuclear fuel. We have work to do, and this is the moment to take decisive action.

Rebuilding America’s uranium industry — and breaking our alarming reliance on Russian fuel and production dominated by former Soviet states — will require thoughtful policy and a long-term commitment to look beyond peaks and valleys in commodity prices. Reestablishing a healthy and robust domestic uranium industry that operates under world leading safety and environmental standards must be a strategic priority.