Uranium Hype-Facts and Virginia Uranium
by Lewis Loflin
In this essay, I won't focus on the political hysteria over Hillary Clinton because I just don't care. The problem is the public, in general, is ignorant of science due to a poor education system and just simple laziness. I'll put this more in layman's terms and hopefully help others understand the lies that pass for news today.
Fact: America is not running out of uranium or any other nuclear fuel nor does Russia own 20% of our uranium. Let's look at Virginia.
Virginia uranium deposits at Cole's Hill in Pittsylvania County is "the largest unmined uranium deposit in the nation, worth an estimated $10 billion." The deposit is estimated at 119 million pounds of uranium, of which 63 million pounds exceeded 0.06% uranium was economical to process. The mine life is estimated at 35 years. Lynchburg has 2 nuclear fuel fabrication facilities.
In other words, 1 ton (2000 lbs) of material produces 1.2 lbs or 19.2 Oz of uranium. Or 544 grams per ton of ore.
The U.S. already imports 90% of its uranium now and only produces 3% of the world uranium production, to begin with. Most uranium used in America is for nuclear power plants comes from Canada. Russia with Kazakhstan already controls almost half the commercial uranium as it is, but really couldn't blackmail America if they tried. Canada and Australia mine between 25% and 30%.
The US mines 3% of world Uranium in 2012. Russia & Kazakhstan mine 41%. Canada/Australia 27%.
Yellowcake is refined uranium ore that's 80-90% uranium.
Russia, via Rosatom and U1H, owns roughly 20 percent of US uranium production capacity. The share of US reserves is much less clear as economic constraints significantly muddy the picture. Looking at actual production, U1H, via Willow Creek, produced an estimated 210 tons of uranium of the 1887.5 tons extracted in the US in 2014.
Ok let's do some math: 210 tons / 1887.5 tons * 100 = 11%. But even if exported to Canada where U1H is located doesn't mean the company needs our uranium because Canada has plenty to sell. The uranium business has fallen by 35% because like the decline of the coal industry fracking and shale gas is cheaper to use for power production. (Also add in Fukushima Japan whose radiation dangers have been grossly over-hyped.)
That is "capacity" as it existed in 2014 doesn't mean we can't increase our capacity to mine uranium - Virginia hasn't even been touched. In addition to be economical to mine depends on the price of yellowcake which is concentrated uranium ore. We have a number of low-grade sites that could be mined at a higher price. We import most uranium which is then processed to nuclear fuel because it's cheaper to do so.
If we really had to we could reprocess spent nuclear rods (somewhere around 80,000 to 100,000 tons are sitting at nuclear power plants), and use the U238 and depleted uranium (uranium with the U235 removed which thousands of tons are in storage) into plutonium which is just as useful for nuclear power as U235. We could also use thorium which like uranium is not a rare chemical element.
Iran Mines Its Own Uranium
Time to end the hype about U.S. uranium being sold to Iran - they have their own. Iran mines it's own uranium at its Saghand Mine. They have a yellowcake production plant in Ardakan. Iran enriches uranium to 3.5% to 20%. They can produce 60 tons of yellowcake annually as of 2013.
Ref. The Telegraph "Iran opens New Uranium Mines and Yellowcake Plant" April 9, 2013.
The reason they really can't make a bomb at present even at 20% enrichment is due to a number of technical problems.
Does Russia Really Own 20% Of The US' Uranium Reserves?
By Colin Chilcoat - May 06, 2015
Yes, well, sort of - and they have for some time now...
Post-Fukushima - and post-shale gas revolution - US nuclear employment have fallen more than 34 percent and exploration and development drilling is down over 80 percent. Relatively low-grade uranium and low global prices stunt the value of US mines in the short- to medium-term. Further out, stricter regulation and a heavier reliance on the private sector, limit the industry's potential abroad relative to its competitors.
Perhaps more importantly, the deal speaks to Rosatom's aggressive new growth. Already the world's most comprehensive nuclear services vendor, Rosatom is now one of the top three producers of uranium by volume worldwide. For the most part, the prize was Kazakhstan and not the United States, which is a symbolic victory at best. U1H's Kazakh production now accounts for approximately 56 percent of Rosatom's total production, both domestic and abroad. At 4,269 tons it's also more than 20 percent of Kazakhstan's total uranium production.
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