The Trump administration announced last week it won’t require nuclear power plants in the U.S. to buy more domestically produced uranium. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, that came as a surprise to some environmental groups.
The Department of Commerce in April recommended that nuclear plants be ordered to buy a quarter of their uranium from U.S. sources. But on Friday, the White House announced it wouldn’t act, and instead will create a taskforce to study the issue.
U.S. uranium production is at its lowest level in nearly seven decades. Domestic power plants purchase only about 7% of their uranium from domestic suppliers, and the rest is imported from Canada, Australia, Russia, and other countries. Uranium companies had pushed for the so-called “buy America” requirement, saying dependence on imports threatens national security.
Environmental groups, however, welcomed the president’s decision. They say boosting U.S. uranium production would lead to more mining on public lands in the Southwest, threatening Bears Ears National Monument and possibly the Grand Canyon. New uranium claims are banned on a million acres outside the park, but conservation groups worry it could be lifted by the administration.