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Namibia orders Russian uranium exploration to stop due to environmental concerns

 North Africa Post January 2, 2023

Namibian authorities have ordered Russia’s state atomic energy agency to stop uranium exploration over concerns about potential contamination of underground water.

Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform refused to grant Russia’s Rosatom subsidiary, One Uranium, a water use permit required for mining, saying the company failed to prove its uranium extraction method would not cause pollution. Namibia — the world’s second and Africa’s no. 1 producer of the nuclear fuel — granted Russia’s state atomic energy agency exploration rights in 2019.

The Namibian official Calle Schlettwein said Namibia could not grant One Uranium a permit for uranium mining. The Russian entity still needs a water use permit to begin mining.

Schlettwein said no further permit would be granted because the mining method the company proposed, known as the in-situ leaching, was raising environmental concerns. In situ mining involves recovering minerals by dissolving them in an acid pumped into the ground and then pumping the solution back to the surface.

Schlettwein said farmers in Namibia’s eastern Omaheke region had petitioned against the technique. Although One Uranium’s spokesperson, Riaan Van Rooyen, dismissed the concerns, Namibian activists maintain the mining project is not worth the risk. Rosatom’s subsidiary is expected to appeal Namibia’s decision against the water permit for uranium mining.


January 4, 2023 Posted by | environment, Namibia, Uranium | Leave a comment

Bill Gates’ Natrium project stalled, lacks Russian fuel – call for tax-payer funding for nuclear fuel development

Russia’s war has stalled a next-gen US nuclear reactor backed by Bill Gates – because it’s lost its sole supplier of uranium

Markets Insider, George Glover , Dec 19, 2022

  • TerraPower has delayed a demo of its flagship nuclear reactor project in Wyoming by at least two years.
  • The nuclear innovation company said it’s unable to get uranium fuel from any source other than Russia.
  • TerraPower has received backing from Bill Gates and the US DOE for its advanced nuclear plant design.

……………..Its CEO Chris Levesque said the war has hit supplies of high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. That means the Natrium nuclear plant that TerraPower is building in Wyoming won’t go into demonstration service in 2028 as planned.

…………. Efforts to get US manufacturers in commercial production and to find alternative suppliers have not worked out, he said.

“Given the lack of fuel availability now, and that there has been no construction started on new fuel enrichment facilities, TerraPower is anticipating a minimum of a two-year delay to being able to bring the Natrium reactor into operation,” Levesque added.

………  Natrium project is expected to cost $4 billion to build, with around half of that funding coming from the US Energy Department.

TerraPower plans to fuel Natrium with HALEU , which has a higher level of enrichment than the 5%-enriched uranium-235 fuel used by American nuclear reactors already in operation.

The company assumed it would use Russian supplies for its first core load because the US doesn’t have the capacity to enrich uranium-235 right now, according to Levesque.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February cut off the fuel source, after the US, the EU and other western allies imposed sanctions on Moscow.

TerraPower and the Department of Energy are now looking for alternative sources of HALEU – and want lawmakers to approve a $2.1 billion funding package to support low-enriched uranium production in the US, Levesque said.

December 19, 2022 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear colonialism: indigenous people say no to uranium mining at Mulga Rock, Western Australia

Sam Wainwright, Perth, November 28, 2022

Nuclear Free WA protested outside Deep Yellow’s annual general meeting on November 25 against the company’s plans to mine uranium at Mulga Rock, north west of Kalgoorlie. The Upurli Upurli traditional owners absolutely oppose it.

Deep Yellow holds the only uranium deposit in Western Australia. This was the company’s first AGM following its merger in August with Vimy Resources.

Mia Pepper, Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), who has been tracking the mine plans for more than 10 years, said it faces more opposition than ever.

Deep Yellow does not have “any agreement with the Native Title claim groups” and “it doesn’t have the finance”, she said.

It has just started a third Definitive Feasibility Study into the beleaguered project, expected to be completed mid-2024. The latest project delay casts further doubt on the future of the site, campaigners said.

“Deep Yellow is the only company beating the uranium drum in Western Australia and even their own executive team has been clear they have no intention to mine at the current uranium price,” Pepper said.

“For a company with a highly speculative business model, no operating mines, many regulatory hurdles still to clear, and a sizeable pricing disincentive, it’s astounding that shareholders would endorse the proposed remuneration package for the Deep Yellow executive team, with the CEO alone receiving over $1 million,” she continued

First Nations communities have been continuing their protests.

WA Greens Legislative Council member Brad Pettitt read a statement in parliament on November 17 on behalf of Upurli Upurli and Spinifex women.

“We are Upurli Upurli and Spinifex women and we are writing because we face the unprecedented threat of uranium mining at Mulga Rock, east of Kalgoorlie … We have been saying no to uranium mining at Mulga Rock for a long time”

Their statement also detailed concerns about Deep Yellow’s executive who held senior roles in companies responsible for the destruction of Juukan Gorge, as well as several incidents of environmental pollution, industrial relations controversies and workplace fatalities at uranium mines in Malawi and Namibia.

The CCWA is delivering a WA Uranium Free Charter to WA MPs. It demands they “review and remove any approval for uranium mining at Mulga Rock” as well as withdraw the approvals of the stalled proposed uranium mines at Kintyre, Yeelirrie and Wiluna.


November 28, 2022 Posted by | indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment

Finland’s Fortum turns to U.S. in bid to replace Russian nuclear fuel HELSINKI, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Finnish power company Fortum (FORTUM.HE) on Tuesday said it was planning to begin buying nuclear fuel from U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric.

Fortum began looking to replace Russian fuel, which it has been using solely since 2008, last March as a response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“The new and parallel fuel supplier will diversify our fuel strategy, improve security of supply and ensure reliable electricity production,” head of Loviisa power plant Sasu Valkamo said.

Fortum has applied for a licence to run its two plants in Finland until 2050, while the current fuel-supply agreements with TVEL, a subsidiary of Russian state-owned power company Rosatom, will run until 2027 and 2030, it said.

“A tendering process will be arranged for fuel supply for the new operating licence period,” the company said.

Fortum has also put its Russian assets up for sale.

November 22, 2022 Posted by | Finland, Uranium | Leave a comment

Putin’s nuclear grip on Europe could spark another energy crisis, expert warns

Russian President Vladimir Putin controls about 42 percent of the world’s nuclear fuel, and may be able to send electricity prices soaring if he withholds supplies. By JACOB PAUL, Nov 20, 2022, As global gas prices have been sent to record highs over the last year due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and his supply cuts to Europe, nations across the continent have been scrambling to wean themselves off Russian fossil fuels to weaken Moscow’s tight grip on the energy market. But an expert has told that countries which have hedged bets on nuclear power as a means of gaining energy independence may not actually be able to escape Putin’s clutches as the Kremlin has dominance over nuclear fuel supplies, which could potentially trigger another price crisis. 

While policymakers across Europe have argued that nuclear power stations can boost homegrown supplies of energy, they have failed to mention these plants require uranium to fuel them. 

This is the crux of the issue as Russia, and Russia-controlled Kazakhstan currently supplies 42 percent of all uranium for all reactors worldwide. And when compared with the gas crisis, the statistics look eerily similar.

The EU for instance, got around 40 percent of its gas from Russia before Putin sent his troops into Ukraine. And when he withheld supplies to Europe, prices in Britain shot up too, despite the UK only getting four percent of its gas from Russia. This is due to the integrated nature of the gas market. 

With the EU relying on Russia for 20 percent of its uranium needed to fuel supplies if Russia decided to curtail uranium deliveries to the bloc, it may spark the same problem and trigger another energy crisis.

Prof Paul Dorfman, an Associate Fellow from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex told “The argument goes that nuclear provides a security of supply. In other words, ‘you don’t need to worry about Putin’s gas or the Middle East’s oil’. But this point of view is hugely problematic. 

“There is no question that the whole business about the Russian invasion of Ukraine has turned the nuclear industry on its head. This whole idea of security of supply, that nuclear won’t leave us dependent on foreign problems is false. 

“Putin, Russia and Russia-controlled Kazakhstan supply 42 percent of all uranium of all reactors worldwide. 20 percent for the EU, 14 percent of the US and nearly 30 percent of their enrichment services.

“The UK is different. We get our uranium from Australia and Canada and we don’t rely on Russia so we are ok.”

However, while nuclear fuel may not run short in the event of a supply cut from Russia, Prof Dorfman warned, it could send the cost of electricity in Britain soaring too. 

Asked if the nuclear market was similar to the gas market in this regard, Prof Dorfman told “In my view, it certainly would have a significant impact on UK electricity prices because we live in a market world. Absolutely, yes.”

This could be a concern for the UK, given that Britain is planning to dramatically expand its number of nuclear power plants, a desire unveiled in the April energy strategy under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It included the plan to set up new government body, Great British Nuclear, and a £120milion Future Nuclear Enabling Fund in a bid to build eight new reactors across the UK. Mr Johnson said: “We’re setting out bold plans to scale up and accelerate affordable, clean and secure energy made in Britain, for Britain – from new nuclear to offshore wind – in the decade ahead.

“This will reduce our dependence on power sources exposed to volatile international prices we cannot control, so we can enjoy greater energy self-sufficiency with cheaper bills.”

While it is recognised that renewable energies like wind and solar power are cheaper than other sources like oil and gas, Mr Johnson appeared to fail to take into account Putin’s grip on the global nuclear market and the prospect of sending electricity bills soaring in the UK. 

November 20, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Russia, Uranium | Leave a comment

Finland to continue relying on Russia for nuclear fuel

Fortum set to rely on Russian nuclear fuel until 2030, Reuters, 09 NOVEMBER 2022,

THE USE of Russian nuclear fuel is set to continue for at least a few more years at the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant operated by Fortum, report STT and YLE.

The Finnish majority state-owned energy company has for the past roughly 15 year fuelled the nuclear power plant with uranium acquired from TVEL, a subsidiary of Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom.

Matti Kattainen, the director of nuclear power at Fortum, stated to STT that the company is operating in line with its supplier contract, declining to speculate on whether and when it could stop the use of Russian fuel. The company has previously stated that it will invite bids from supplier candidates once its operating licences, as well as the current supplier contract, come up for renewal in 2027 and 2030……………

Fortum in March submitted an application for a licence to continue operating the plant until 2050.

Juhani Hyvärinen, a professor of nuclear technology at LUT University, viewed that Fortum is in a difficult position due to the relatively low number of potential suppliers. He added on a general level that the company would likely require a year or two after signing a supplier contract to take the first delivery.

Russian nuclear fuel has accounted for roughly 20–30 per cent of the global market, he estimated in an interview with YLE. The European Commission has reported that Soviet or Russian-made reactors that are fully reliant on Russian fuel remain in use in five countries across the EU: Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia.

Hyvärinen stated to both news outlets that there are no insurmountable technical obstacles to replacing the fuel. The Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant, for example, previously ran on fuel from British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL)……

Nuclear fuel is presently not on the sanctions list of the European Union. The possibility of bringing it within the scope of sanctions has reportedly been discussed, but the likelihood of doing so in the midst of the energy crisis appears low. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs told YLE that adding nuclear fuel to the list would require a unanimous decision by the 27-country bloc but declined to comment on the discussions.

Also Hyvärinen refrained from commenting on what he said is a political decision……….

Use of Russia nuclear fuel became a topic of discussion in Finland on Saturday, following the emergence of news reports about police officers overseeing the loading of what turned out to be Russian nuclear fuel onto an aircraft bound for Bratislava, Slovakia, at Lappeenranta Airport……….

November 9, 2022 Posted by | Finland, Uranium | Leave a comment

Europe can’t cut economic ties with Russia unless it cuts nuclear power use as well

Uranium addiction . By Hannes Czerulla, 6 Nov 22

The new edition of the Uranium Atlas makes it clear that Europe will not be able to detach itself economically from Russia as long as the states continue to use electricity from nuclear power. After all, both Germany and other European states obtain a large part of the uranium needed for this purpose from mines in Russia and Kazakhstan.

The recently updated version of the Uranium Atlas (in German), is published by the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) together with the Nuclear Free Future Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg FoundationGreenpeace and “.ausgestrahlt”. According to the report, around 40 per cent of European uranium imports come from Russia and Kazakhstan. Thus, in addition to fossil energy imports, European countries are significantly dependent on Russia.

If Europe really wants to become independent of Russia in the energy sector, “it must also stop its cooperation with Russia in the nuclear sector as soon as possible,” emphasised Uwe Witt, Senior Advisor for Climate Protection and Structural Change at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

The Uranium Atlas highlights the regions of the world where uranium is mined, utilised or disposed of. The history of the uranium industry is mostly marked by exploitation and environmental destruction. In Africa, for example, foreign companies still control the mining of radioactive ore and leave behind contaminated land and a population with impaired health. In Canada and the USA, too, indigenous inhabitants are suffering from the uranium-related contamination of entire regions. Meanwhile, Central Europe is struggling with the legacy of uranium mining.

Nuclear power does not bring security of supplies

At the centre of the Russian uranium industry is the state-owned corporation Rosatom. Founded in 2007 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it reports directly to the Kremlin and holds stakes in uranium mines mainly in Kazakhstan, but also in Canada and the USA. With an annual output of 7,122 tonnes of uranium, the company produces 15 percent of the global total and is the second-largest uranium producer in the world.

Angela Wolff, nuclear and energy policy officer at BUND, explains: “In the production of enriched uranium, which is needed for the operation of nuclear power plants, the dependency is even greater: more than a third of the global demand comes from the Russian state corporation.”

Eastern Europe in particular is also specifically dependent on Russian fuel elements because reactors in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia – and Finland – can only be operated with these hexagonal fuel rods. In total, there are 18 reactors of this type in the EU.

Russia ignores environmental problems

Rosatom is silent about the details of uranium mining in Russia’s three remaining mines. The 225-page annual report contains only production and key figures on uranium mining. No details were mentioned and certainly no problems.

Uranium expert Paul Robinson reports in the Uranium Atlas: “In some houses in the vicinity of uranium mines in Krasnokamensk, radon concentrations of up to 28,000 becquerels per cubic metre have been measured; this value is 190 times above the limit at which, for example in the USA, emergency measures are prescribed by law.”

Closed mines need to be cleaned up in Russia. Environmental protection organisations that wanted to secure them are harassed by the state. The nuclear physicist Oleg Bodrov, for example, had to resign from the leadership of the organisation Green World in 2017 because he had campaigned for the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants in Russia and the cessation of uranium mining.

Import ban for Russia is not enough

While Rosatom is planning to build a total of 35 new nuclear power plants abroad – among others in Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Finland and Hungary – the EU Commission is being forced to act, explained Armin Simon of the anti-nuclear organisation .ausgestrahlt. The EU Commission has justified the inclusion of nuclear power and fossil gas in the EU taxonomy with supply security aspects, Simon said. “This justification has turned out to be false for all to see. Contrary to what is claimed, nuclear power does not contribute to security of supply.”

An import ban on nuclear fuel from Russia, as already demanded by the EU Parliament, falls short, he said. “The EU Commission must revise its position on this. Otherwise, the EU Parliament must pull the emergency brake,” Simon demanded.

BUND points out that despite the precarious situation, CDU/CSU politicians are calling for lifetime extensions for German nuclear power plants. For example, Bavaria’s Prime Minister “Markus Söder is conducting a grotesque sham debate,” said Olaf Bandt, Chairman of BUND. “His calls for nuclear power are a political and moral indictment in light of the nuclear threats from nuclear power plants in the war zone [in Ukraine] and Putin’s nuclear bomb threats.” (Editor’s note: Since this article was originally published, the German government did decide to extend the operating life of two of its remaining three reactors, but only until next April.)

Critics as enemies of the state

In the authors’ view, obtaining the uranium needed in Europe from states other than Russia is not an alternative. The conditions under which the fuel is mined are precarious everywhere. In China, anyone who criticises uranium mining is considered an enemy of the state.

The activist and Nuclear Free Future Award winner Sun Xiaodi is mentioned as an example. He had run a warehouse at one of China’s largest mines and raised questions about health hazards and radiation exposure from 1988 onwards. After giving an interview to a French journalist in 2005, he was placed under house arrest. In 2009, Sun Xiaodi was sentenced to two years in a penal camp for inciting public opinion, according to reports by the medical organisation IPPNW.

Africa does not benefit from mining

Read more: Europe can’t cut economic ties with Russia unless it cuts nuclear power use as well

Nowadays, active mines in Africa are found in Niger, Namibia and South Africa. Although Niger is the world’s eighth-largest uranium producer in terms of total historical mining, the population has not benefited from the boom since the 1960s. Today, the country is one of the poorest in the world. At the same time, about 152,000 tonnes of uranium with a current market price of about 40 billion US dollars were exported.

What has been left behind – mainly by the French nuclear company Areva – is radiating waste. In the areas surrounding the mines, the radiation levels in the water are in some cases ten to a hundred times higher than recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Roads have been built out of radiated rock debris. In the mining town of Arlit on the southern edge of the Sahara, 35 million tonnes of radioactive waste are lying around in the open. The background radiation there is 200 times higher. Nevertheless, three new mines are planned.

Under South Africa’s apartheid system, it was standard practice for decades that workers with suspicious symptoms of illness were given a last month’s pay and dismissed. There, uranium is only a by-product of gold mining. However, this was enough to make South Africa the most important uranium producer in Africa.

“Nuclear power contributes nothing to solving the climate crisis.”

The authors of the Uranium Atlas also warn against viewing nuclear power as a “climate saviour”, as is currently repeatedly suggested by interest groups and politicians. “Climate protection is currently the central argument for making nuclear power respectable again,” the Uranium Atlas states.

In its brochure “Nuclear Power and the Paris Agreement”, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claims that nuclear power is also needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. With this justification, the EU Commission also wants to classify nuclear energy as sustainable in the EU taxonomy (in German)(Editor’s note. Since the original publication of this article, this has now become a reality.)

From the authors’ point of view, however, these demands neglect the health and environmental dangers of uranium mining, the possibility of a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions and the still unresolved question of final storage. Horst Hamm, project manager of the Uranium Atlases, therefore declared: “Nuclear power contributes nothing to solving the climate crisis.” Moreover, the construction of new nuclear power plants is too expensive and too slow to make a difference to climate protection in the future, he said.

“Not even existing nuclear power plants are still able to compete with renewable energies, as the example of the USA in the Uranium Atlas shows,” Hamm added. Six US reactors are being shut down there ahead of schedule, and more are to follow. (Editor’s note: there are now moves afoot to subsidize and keep open reactors that planned to close and even to reopen at least one.) The nuclear industry had already been highly subsidised in the past decades and, from a purely economic point of view, was not viable.

New construction projects: Bottomless pit

Worldwide, one in eight new nuclear power plants was abandoned before it went into operation. The reason was often delays in completion and rising costs during construction. Examples include Chile, Indonesia, Jordan, Lithuania, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, there are also reactors in Europe whose commissioning has been delayed by years and whose costs continue to rise: The construction of the first European pressurised water reactor (EPR) in Olkiluoto, Finland, started in 2005 and was supposed to be finished in 2009. Now, in the course of 2022, with a delay of 13 years, regular generation of electricity is to begin there. (Editor’s note: In October, cracks in all four feedwater pumps of Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 were found and startup is now delayed until at least late December 2022.)

The new reactor in Flamanville, France has been under construction since 2007 and should have been operational in 2012. Due to technical and industrial problems, it will now be commissioned in 2023 at the earliest. With projected costs of 19 billion Euros, the power plant is expected to be six times as expensive as planned. The costs of the Finnish EPR have risen from an estimated 3 billion Euros to almost 11 billion Euros.

Renewables cheaper than nuclear power

When calculating the costs of nuclear power, items such as the removal of damage from uranium mining as well as the dismantling and final storage of contaminated waste must also be priced in. The latter, however, are difficult to quantify. According to the Uranium Atlas, the nuclear industry has “neither determined the true price of its business nor adequately illuminated its economic situation”. Instead, state subsidies have been paid again and again due to the interconnections with the construction of nuclear bombs and the maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines and warships.

According to calculations made by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in 2021, generating electricity with the help of nuclear fission is more expensive than almost any other method. Only energy from gas and hard coal costs even more per kilowatt-hour. The researchers calculated a price of 13.5 Euro cents for a kilowatt-hour of nuclear electricity. A kilowatt-hour from hard coal costs 15.5 cents and from gas 20.2 cents.

In contrast, energy production from renewable resources is in part significantly cheaper. The price of a kilowatt-hour from offshore wind turbines is only 9.7 cents, onshore 6.1 cents, and photovoltaic plants on open land in southern Germany produce the kilowatt-hour for 3.6 cents. In sunnier countries like oil-rich Saudi Arabia, it is even cheaper. There, a 600-megawatt solar project has been connected to the grid that generates the kilowatt-hour for 1.04 US cents.

The authors see the future of sustainable energy generation not in nuclear power, but in renewables like wind and solar. “Renewable energies are now cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear power plants, even if you don’t count their follow-up costs,” said Heinz Smital, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace. Even old and depreciated plants often cannot keep up.

Last April marked the 36th anniversary of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl reactor disaster. Nevertheless, nuclear energy is once again being presented as the solution in Europe (in German) today. In light of this, BUND calls on the federal government to stand by its refusal to extend the operating lives of nuclear power plants and to complete the phase-out of nuclear power.

November 6, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

Studies on nuclear radiation’s impact on people necessary: BRIN 4 Nov 22, Jakarta (ANTARA) – Environmental and health studies on the impact of radiation exposure on people living in areas of high natural radiation, such as Mamuju, West Sulawesi, are necessary, the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) has said.

A researcher from BRIN’s Research Center for Metrology Safety Technology and Nuclear Quality, Eka Djatnika Nugraha, said that in some places in Indonesia, such as Mamuju, people have been exposed to natural radiation that is several times higher than the global average at around 2.4 millisieverts per year.

“This situation may pose a health risk to the public due to chronic external and internal exposure,” Nugraha said in a statement received on Friday.

Mamuju is an area of high natural background radiation due to the high concentration of uranium and thorium in the rocks and soil, he observed.

Thus, studies on the health of people living in such areas could serve as a potential source of information about the effects of chronic low-dose exposure, he added.

In order to obtain scientific evidence on the effects of chronic low-dose radiation exposure on health, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment of the exposure situation in areas of high natural radiation, he elaborated.

Meanwhile, head of BRIN’s Nuclear Energy Research Organization, Rohadi Awaludin, said that it is important to know and understand the safety and protection measures against nuclear radiation technology, especially for everyone involved or in contact with it.

“Nuclear radiation technology, including ionization, has been used and applied to various aspects, including industry and health, food, and others. This technology is the answer to the problems we have, but there are also risks that (one) must be (aware of) from this technology,” he added. 

November 3, 2022 Posted by | Indonesia, radiation, Uranium | Leave a comment

American companies might make fuel for small nuclear reactors, except that there seems to be no market for them.

Russia’s Uranium Dominance Threatens America’s Next-Gen Nuclear Plans, By Tsvetana Paraskova – Oct 23, 2022, 10:00 AM CDT

  • The United States has ambitious plans for its nuclear power industry.
  • Russia’s stranglehold on the uranium market threatens to delay progress in nextgen nuclear power projects. 
  • U.S. companies are scrambling to develop the domestic uranium supply chain needed to fuel nuclear power ambitions.


there is one major hurdle to the construction of most advanced reactors under development in the United States—the uranium type of fuel on which those reactors are designed to run is currently sold commercially by only one company in the world. And that company is a subsidiary of Russia’s ROSATOM, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation.

The federal government and U.S. companies developing advanced nuclear reactors—including Bill Gates’ TerraPower—recognize the urgent need to eliminate reliance on a Russian state corporation for nuclear fuel for America’s next-generation nuclear reactors.  

The association Uranium Producers of America noted during a Senate committee hearing after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that “almost none of the fuel needed to power America’s nuclear fleet today comes from domestic producers, while U.S. nuclear utilities purchase nearly half of the of the uranium they consume from state-owned entities (SEO) in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.”

“We estimate that there is more than $1 billion in annual U.S. dollar purchases of nuclear fuel flowing to ROSATOM,” said Scott Melbye, president of the association and Executive Vice President at Uranium Energy Corp.

ROSATOM is not under Western sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of the Russian state firm’s importance in the supply chain of the global nuclear power industry. But the U.S. firms developing the next generation of more efficient, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly nuclear reactors don’t want to do business with Russia anymore.

Hence, the need for a commercially viable and stable domestic supply chain of the fuel for those advanced reactors—HALEU, or high assay low enriched uranium. ……………………………………….

 the U.S. government faces the “chicken and egg” dilemma in HALEU supply, Matt Bowen, Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA, and Paul M. Dabbar, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the same center, wrote in a paper in May this year/ 

“Existing enrichment companies, such as Urenco, Orano, GLE, and Centrus, could make HALEU, but these companies would likely be hesitant to invest too much in building HALEU infrastructure and completing NRC licensing without being confident there will in fact be a profitable market for the product,” they say.   

October 23, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Uranium | Leave a comment

America’s new nuclear power industry has a Russian problem

Kitco News Reuters  Friday October 21, 2022,

WASHINGTON/LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) – U.S. firms developing a new generation of small nuclear power plants to help cut carbon emissions have a big problem: only one company sells the fuel they need, and it’s Russian.

That’s why the U.S. government is urgently looking to use some of its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium to help fuel the new advanced reactors and kick-start an industry it sees as crucial for countries to meet global net-zero emissions goals.

Production of HALEU is a critical mission and all efforts to increase its production are being evaluated,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said……..

without a reliable source of the high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) the reactors need, developers worry they won’t receive orders for their plants. And without orders, potential producers of the fuel are unlikely to get commercial supply chains up and running to replace the Russian uranium……

The fact that Russia has a monopoly on HALEU has long been a concern for Washington but the war in Ukraine has changed the game, as neither the government nor the companies developing the new advanced reactors want to rely on Moscow.

HALEU is enriched to levels of up to 20%, rather than around 5% for the uranium that powers most nuclear plants. But only TENEX, which is part of Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom, sells HALEU commercially at the moment.

While no Western countries have sanctioned Rosatom over Ukraine, mainly because of its importance to the global nuclear industry, U.S. power plant developers such as X-energy and TerraPower don’t want to be dependent on a Russian supply chain.

“We didn’t have a fuel problem until a few months ago,” said Jeff Navin, director of external affairs at TerraPower, whose chairman is billionaire Bill Gates. “After the invasion of Ukraine, we were not comfortable doing business with Russia.”

………….. with large-scale projects still challenging for reasons including huge up-front costs, project delays, cost overruns and competition from cheaper energy sources such as wind, several developers have proposed so-called small modular reactors (SMR).

While the SMRs on offer from companies such as EDF (EDF.PA) and Rolls-Royce (RR.L) use existing technology and the same fuel as traditional reactors, nine out of 10 of the advanced reactors funded by Washington are designed to use HALEU…….

Companies in the United States and Europe have plans to produce HALEU on a commercial scale but even in the most optimistic scenarios, they say it would take at least five years from the point they decide to proceed……
“Nobody wants to order 10 reactors without a fuel source, and nobody wants to invest in a fuel source without 10 reactor orders,” said Daniel Poneman, chief executive of U.S. nuclear fuel supplier Centrus Energy Corp (LEU.A)…..

TerraPower, for example, said it will need 15 tonnes of HALEU for the first fuel load of its advanced reactor.

Other potential HALEU producers are further behind.

French state-owned uranium mining and enrichment company Orano says it could start producing HALEU in five to eight years, but will only apply for a production licence once it has customers with long-term contracts.

In a response to a DOE request for information about how to establish a programme to support HALEU production, Orano said it would be down to the U.S. government to kick-start the industry.

“Orano’s assessment shows that the single most important factor enabling success is the DOE guaranteeing a certain volume of demand,” the company said in a statement on its website.

European uranium enrichment company Urenco, meanwhile, says it is considering sites in the United States and Britain for HALEU production but has yet to apply for licences.


For TerraPower and X-energy, which have projects planned in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Washington respectively, the clock is ticking.

Washington awarded them contracts to build two demonstration rectors by 2028 and shared the costs. But without Russian fuel, that deadline will fall well before any alternative commercial suppliers would be up and running.

While the 20% enrichment levels for HALEU are well below the roughly 90% level needed for weapons, companies need special licences to produce it. Additional security and certification requirements are also required for production sites, packaging and transportation of the fuel.

To speed up the process and break the deadlock, the U.S. government is looking to “downblend” weapons-grade highly enriched uranium sitting in its stockpile, though that will also take time…..

The Inflation Reduction Act U.S. President Joe Biden signed in August contained $700 million to secure HALEU supplies from the government and a consortium partnered with the DOE for use in advanced reactors and research.

In September, the White House asked Congress for another $1.5 billion in a temporary government funding bill to boost domestic supply of low enriched uranium and HALEU, to address potential difficulties in accessing Russian fuel.

Lawmakers took the measure out of the bill over concerns about costs, though it remains a priority for some Biden officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Last year, nuclear power stations in the United States imported about 14% of their uranium from Russia, along with 28% of their enrichment services, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Reporting by Sarah McFarlane and Susanna Twidale in London and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Veronica Brown and David Clarke

October 21, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

USA’s planned small nuclear reactors must have special uranium fuel – from Russia!

 Putin holds the key to Biden’s nuclear dreams as Russian fuel needed for
new US plants. The West has been scrambling to wean itself off Russian
energy amid the war in Ukraine, but a Kremlin-controlled firm has a tight
grip on a crucial part of the nuclear industry.

The US is vying to roll out its new small nuclear power plants amid the global energy crisis as it weans
itself off fossil fuels, but Russia is the only country which has the fuel
needed to power the next-generation reactors. Now, the US is scrambling to
use some of its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium, (uranium is the fuel
widely used in nuclear plants) as an alternative as it hopes to kickstart
the nuclear revolution. 

 Express 20th Oct 2022

October 21, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

Health Implications of re-licensing the Cameco nuclear fuel manufacturing plant .

“Health Implications of re-licensing the Cameco Fuel Manufacturing plant (CFM)” Gordon Edwards 12 Oct 22

 my submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on behalf of the Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee. Port Hope is in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Ontario just east of Toronto. This town houses one of the largest uranium “conversion” plants in the world, turning refined uranium into (1) drums of uranium hexafluoride for export to enrichment plants in other countries, and (2) uranium dioxide powder to be turned into ceramic fuel pellets used in Canadian nuclear reactors.

The paper deals with the health implications of the low-level radioactive dust that escapes into the air of Port Hope from the Fuel Fabrication Plant – the plant that manufactures fuel pellets and assembles them into CANDU fuel bundles.  

Before they are used, these fuel bundles are weakly radioactive but safe to handle (with gloves, for a short time). After they are used, the fuel bundles are millions of times more radioactive — when freshly discharged from the reactor, one fuel bundle will kill an unshielded human standing one metre  away in less than 20 seconds. That’s a very HIGH level of radiation, caused by all the broken pieces of uranium atoms that are left Inside the used fuel bundle and are constantly disintegrating.

But that is not the case in Port Hope. Here we have only naturally occurring radioactive uranium that has been brought to the surface to make fuel for nuclear reactors. The problem is that the uranium dust specks are so tiny they are totally invisible, and when inhaled they “stick” in the lungs and stay there for a long time, damaging the tissue so that it might begin to grow in the wrong way, eventually becoming a lung cancer years later.  It is a much slower kind of illness and death that may be caused by LOW level radiation exposure. It’s like a lottery with a negative “prize” – not everyone will be so affected, but the unlucky “winners” will suffer the consequences.

Gordon Edwards

October 12, 2022 Posted by | Canada, health, Reference, Uranium | Leave a comment

Does Russia sell nearly $1 billion in uranium to the U.S. a year?

If you can follow all this – well good luck to you! Analysis by Glenn KesslerThe Fact Checker, April 20, 2022 ,

“We are still sending about $100 million every month to Russia to buy uranium.”

— Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), interviewed on Fox News, April 13

“In 2021 Russian imports [of uranium] cost almost $1 billion, money that helped underwrite Mr. Putin’s war machine.”

— Barrasso, in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal, April 12

The Biden administration has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including eliminating preferential trading privileges and banning imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. So we were surprised to hear these numbers from Barrasso — that Russia received nearly $1 billion for uranium products in 2021 and is on track to earn $1.2 billion this year. The uranium is generally used as fuel to generate electricity in nuclear power plants.

Barrasso, the senior Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, represents Wyoming, which has uranium mines that would benefit from a ban on Russian uranium. In fact, the domestic uranium mining industry has all but come to a halt, with production falling to an all-time low in 2019, as nuclear energy increasingly has relied on imports. That constituency might have made Barrasso a suspect source, though we have found that he does not routinely make up his numbers.

The Facts

Continue reading

October 7, 2022 Posted by | Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

, Time and again, mining company Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up waste from decades of uranium processing. It didn’t happen.

Reader supported News, Mark Olalde and Maya Miller/ProPublica, 25 Aug 22

he “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres. Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.

Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die. Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.

“We were sacrificed a long time ago,” said Candace Head-Dylla, who created the death map with her mother after Head-Dylla had her thyroid removed and her mother developed breast cancer. Research has linked both types of illnesses to uranium exposure.

Beginning in 1958, a uranium mill owned by Homestake Mining Company of California processed and refined ore mined nearby. The waste it left behind leaked uranium and selenium into groundwater and released the cancer-causing gas radon into the air. State and federal regulators knew the mill was polluting groundwater almost immediately after it started operating, but years passed before they informed residents and demanded fixes.

The contamination continued to spread even after the mill closed in 1990.

The failures at Homestake are emblematic of the toxic legacy of the American uranium industry, one that has been well-documented from its boom during the Cold War until falling uranium prices and concerns over the dangers of nuclear power decimated the industry in the 1980s. Uranium mining and milling left a trail of contamination and suffering, from miners who died of lung cancer while the federal government kept the risks secret to the largest radioactive spill in the country’s history.

But for four decades, the management of more than 250 million tons of radioactive uranium mill waste has been largely overlooked, continuing to pose a public health threat.

ProPublica found that regulators have failed to hold companies to account when they missed cleanup targets and accepted incorrect forecasts that pollution wouldn’t spread. The federal government will eventually assume responsibility for the more than 50 defunct mills that generated this waste.

At Homestake, which was among the largest mills, the company is bulldozing a community in order to walk away. Interviews with dozens of residents, along with radon testing and thousands of pages of company and government records, reveal a community sacrificed to build the nation’s nuclear arsenal and atomic energy industry.

Time and again, Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up the area. Time and again, they missed their deadlines while further spreading pollution in the communities. In the 1980s, Homestake promised residents groundwater would be cleaned within a decade, locals told the Environmental Protection Agency and ProPublica. After missing that target, the company told regulators it would complete the job around 2006, then by 2013.

In 2014, an EPA report confirmed the site posed an unacceptable cancer risk and identified radon as the greatest threat to residents’ health. Still, the cleanup target date continued shifting, to 2017, then 2022.

Rather than finish the cleanup, Homestake’s current owner, the Toronto-based mining giant Barrick Gold, is now preparing to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency that oversees the cleanup of uranium mills, for permission to demolish its groundwater treatment systems and hand the site and remaining waste over to the U.S. Department of Energy to monitor and maintain forever.

Before it can transfer the site to the Department of Energy, Homestake must prove that the contamination, which exceeds federal safety levels, won’t pose a risk to nearby residents or taint the drinking water of communities downstream.

Part of Homestake’s strategy: buy out nearby residents and demolish their homes. Local real estate agents and residents say the company’s offers do not account for the region’s skyrocketing housing costs, pushing some who accept them back into debt in order to buy a new home. Those who do sell are required to sign agreements to refrain from disparaging Homestake and absolve the company of liability, even though illnesses caused by exposure to radioactive waste can take decades to manifest.

Property records reveal the company had, by the end of 2021, purchased 574 parcels covering 14,425 acres around the mill site. This April, Homestake staff indicated they had 123 properties left to buy. One resident said the area was quickly becoming a “ghost town.”

Even after the community is gone, more than 15,000 people who live nearby, many of them Indigenous, will continue to rely on water threatened by Homestake’s pollution.

The company said it has produced models showing that its waste won’t imperil the region’s water if it walks away. The NRC says it will only grant a groundwater cleanup exemption if that’s the case.

But while Homestake and other mining companies have polluted the region, it’s been the NRC and various other agencies that stood by as it happened. ProPublica found the NRC has issued exemptions from groundwater cleanup standards to uranium mills around the country, only to see pollution continue to spread. This has occurred as climate change hammers the West, making water ever scarcer.

“Groundwater moves. Groundwater doesn’t care about regulations,” said Earle Dixon, a hydrogeologist who reviewed the government’s oversight of uranium cleanup and pollution around Homestake for the New Mexico Environment Department and the EPA. Dixon and other researchers predict contamination at Homestake will likely spread if cleanup ends.

The company has denied that its waste caused residents’ illnesses, and judges ruled in Homestake’s favor in a case residents filed in 2004 alleging the site caused cancer. Doctors testified that the pollution was a substantial factor contributing to residents’ cancers, but tying particular cases to a single source requires communitywide blood, urine and other testing, which hadn’t been done…………………………………………………..

ProPublica found that, as with most uranium mills in the U.S., Homestake built no liner between the earth and the sandy waste left over from milling, known as tailings. This happened even though an engineer with the New Mexico Department of Health warned the company only weeks after the mill opened that it needed to at least compact the soil underneath its waste to prevent leaks. Without a liner, pollution seeped into aquifers that supplied drinking water. In 1961, the same engineer wrote that groundwater samples showed radium 226, a radioactive and cancer-causing element, at levels as much as 31 times higher than naturally occur in the area, indicating “definite pollution of the shallow ground water table by the uranium mill tailings’ ponds.”

A federal report a year later identified even higher levels of radium 226 in groundwater…………………………..

 More than 500 abandoned uranium mines pockmark the Navajo Nation, and Billiman’s father, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II, died of stomach cancer, an illness associated with downwind exposure to nuclear tests. Boomer has written the story of uranium into lyrics, singing about the harm caused by the waste that was left behind…………………………………………….more

August 26, 2022 Posted by | environment, Uranium | Leave a comment

Bill Gates’ nuclear startup wins $750M, loses sole fuel source

TerraPower notches a record-setting investment round led by South Korea’s SK. But it has no supplier of the enriched fuel it needs, now that sourcing from Russia is off the table.

Canary Media Eric Wesoff, 18 August 2022, Nuclear fission startup TerraPower, founded and chaired by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has raised $750 million to develop advanced nuclear reactors to serve as alternatives to the light-water reactors that make up the vast majority of the world’s civilian nuclear fleet. But cash alone won’t be enough to get the startup over the many hurdles that stand in its way.

TerraPower’s Natrium fast reactor design is radically different from the design of traditional nuclear reactors. For starters, it’s smaller. A typical reactor in the U.S. produces 1,000 megawatts of power. TerraPower’s first demonstration reactor, now being planned for a site in Wyoming, will have a capacity of 345 megawatts. The smaller size could enable the reactor to be built cheaply in a factory and not expensively on-site.

The Natrium reactor will also use a different fuel and a different coolant than standard nuclear reactors. It will be fueled by high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which is enriched with more uranium than the fuel used in traditional nuclear plants. And the coolant will be high-temperature liquid sodium instead of water. 

TerraPower’s new funding includes $250 million from South Korean chaebol SK Group. Previous funding for the firm has come from Gates and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway. The company was also awarded $80 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to work on its Natrium reactor design.

Canary covered TerraPower’s technology in detail last year when the firm announced that Bechtel will build its first reactor in Kemmerer, Wyoming, near the site of a coal-fired power plant that is scheduled to be shut down. The U.S. Department of Energy and private investors will split the cost of the demonstration project. 

The startup claims that this first reactor will be in operation by 2028 and will cost $4 billion, including engineering, procurement and construction. If TerraPower comes anywhere close to meeting those wildly ambitious goals, it will strongly differentiate itself from the traditional nuclear industry, which is notorious for missed deadlines and shocking cost overruns. The only two conventional nuclear reactors currently under construction in the U.S., at the Vogtle plant in Georgia, are already six years overdue and will cost utility customers over $30 billion, more than double the original price tag.

Fuel folly?

One big new problem for TerraPower emerged earlier this year: its fuel source. The only facility currently able to supply commercial quantities of HALEU is in Russia. That wasn’t a great situation even before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now that the war in Ukraine has been grinding on for six months and shows no signs of resolution, relying on fuel sourced from Russia is untenable. 

In March, TerraPower said it had cut ties with Tenex, the Russian state-owned company from which it had planned to source HALEU, Wyoming-based nonprofit news outlet WyoFile reported. ​“When Russia invaded Ukraine it became very clear, for a whole set of reasons — moral reasons as well as commercial reasons — that using Russian fuel is no longer an option for us,” said Jeff Navin, TerraPower’s director of external affairs.

TerraPower did just get good news this week when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The legislation includes $700 million to help build up a domestic supply chain for HALEU. The funding could give a boost to the U.S. Department of Energy’s plans to launch a congressionally authorized HALEU Availability Program. But developing HALEU production capacity in the U.S. will take years. 

TerraPower does not have wiggle room to delay. If it doesn’t complete its demonstration project by 2028, it stands to lose out on up to $2 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and the opportunity for expedited federal regulatory reviews. 

Some experts are skeptical that TerraPower will make the deadline, especially now that it has no source of fuel. ​“I didn’t think it was doable before this monkey wrench was thrown in,” Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told WyoFile in March.

A nuclear renaissance?

Despite these headwinds, TerraPower did just raise $750 million, so it’s not alone in anticipating a revival of the nuclear power industry. 

The Inflation Reduction Act will help not just HALEU-fueled TerraPower but the rest of the nuclear energy sector too: It includes a production tax credit for nuclear power, an incentive that will benefit struggling nuclear plants that already exist across the country as well as developers of new types of nuclear reactors. In addition to TerraPower, that latter category includes U.S. startups NuScale and Oklo.

…..  The bipartisan infrastructure law Biden signed late last year contains $6 billion to support existing nuclear plants and $3.2 billion for development of advanced nuclear power technology. The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has $11 billion in funding for nuclear plants and nuclear supply chains, according to Jigar Shah, director of the office. ……………..

August 20, 2022 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment