US uranium production decreased to an all-time low in 2019, as more nuclear reactors in the countries retired from service while imports replaced domestic production, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Friday.
In 2019, the US produced 174,000 pounds (78,925 kilograms) of uranium concentrate (U3O8), the first step in nuclear fuel production, which was 89% less than in 2018, according to an EIA statement.
This marked the lowest amount produced since the EIA’s data releases began in 1949, the statement said, adding that US domestic U3O8 production has declined since its peak of 43.7 million pounds (19.8 million kilograms) in 1980.
During the early years of the Cold War with reciprocal nuclear armament against the Soviet Union, the US introduced incentives and trade policies encouraging the growth of domestic uranium production in the late 1940s and early 1950s, according to the statement.
However, after these policies ended in the 1980s, domestic uranium production in the US also started to decline, it added.
"Other countries, such as Canada and Australia, have more accessible, high-quality uranium deposits, allowing them to produce U3O8 at a lower cost than the US. Since 1990, purchased imports of U3O8 have exceeded domestic U3O8 production each year," the statement read.
In 2019, Canada was the largest source of the United States’ uranium imports, followed by Kazakhstan, Australia and Russia.
Under the era of former US President Barack Obama, the country’s move towards more use of renewable energy sources along with the retiring of US nuclear rectors in recent years has resulted in a decline in uranium production.
The US currently has 95 operating commercial nuclear reactors at 57 nuclear power plants. By 2025, three additional reactors at two plants are expected to retire, according to the EIA.
"The share of electricity generated from nuclear power is projected to fall from 20% in 2019 to 12% in 2050," according to an EIA statement on Feb. 7, 2020.
By Ovunc Kutlu