As U.S. Utilities Grow Needlessly Dependent on Foreign Supplies – The United States is over 90% dependent on foreign countries for its uranium supply despite having more than enough of the mineral for the U.S. to be fully self-sufficient in the production of domestic nuclear power. According to Supervisor Buster Johnson, 375 million pounds of uranium sits unable to be touched in northern Mohave and Coconino Counties thanks to the Department of Interior’s January 2012 withdrawal of uranium mining. A withdrawal is one of the ways by which the Executive Branch restricts access to mining on public lands. “In addition to using 50 million tons annually to provide domestic electrical power, uranium is required for medical purposes and to power our submarine–it is considered a strategic asset to the U.S.,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Because we currently produce less than 10% of our uranium domestically, you would think that the U.S. would want to lessen that dependency by allowing uranium mining on the nearly 1 million acres of land in the Arizona Strip area,” Johnson continued. Congressman Paul Gosar, a strong supporter of Mohave County’s efforts to promote economic growth through uranium mining, recently grilled two top federal officials during a committee hearing put together by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – John Kotek, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Nuclear Energy and David Trimble, the Director of Natural Resource and Environment at the Department of Energy. Together with Scott Melbye, the Executive Vice President for Uranium Energy Corporation, the three were invited to testify regarding the Supervisor Buster Johnson’s (DOE) Excess Uranium Management Plan. Congressman Gosar attended the hearing and asked some tough questions of those responsible for this misguided policy. “Are you at all concerned that US utilities are importing 92% of the uranium they use in domestic reactors from foreign sources?” Gosar asked during the question and answer session. Based on their response, the two DOE officials seemed genuinely uninterested or concerned about the level of imports. The oversight hearing also questioned the department’s commitment to uranium development. “The Department of Interior withdrew 375 million lbs. of uranium from the Arizona Strip Area in 2012. The Department of Energy never stood up against the withdrawal, yet, by law DOE has a legal responsibility to protect our energy interests including support of more uranium development in the United States,”
Supervisor Johnson explained. “Their support of nuclear power seems to ignore the importance of domestically mined uranium which insures a safe reliable supply for nuclear power plants which provide 20% of America’s electricity. By pursuing these actions, the Obama DOE and Interior Departments have cost Mohave County taxpayers nearly $30 billion in economic development,” Johnson continued. The hearing came about after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study of the Management Plan and DOE’s uranium. Specifically, GAO found that DOE lacked the authority to conduct the uranium transfers under the USEC Privatization Act. GAO also found that DOE did not properly value the uranium that was being transferred, nor did DOE adequately assess the impact of the transfers on the commercial uranium market. “Federal agencies did an end run around the Congress by bartering surplus government stockpiles of uranium to generate revenue and in the process collapsed the price of uranium upon which mining companies rely” Johnson stated. “This directly harmed the economy of Mohave County because mining companies were unable to employ local workers,” Johnson ended.