As the Biden administration continues to push for green energy and nuclear power is increasingly seen as an attractive option, policy experts warn that, without a reliable, domestic supply of uranium, the U.S. could find itself beholden to Russia.
According to The Federalist, if America truly desires a sustainable, fossil-free future, it must consider nuclear energy. Increasing the nation's reliance on nuclear power without reassessing where the uranium comes from, however, could put the United States in the same position as Europe, which is dependent on Russian energy imports.
A total of 93 nuclear reactors currently generate 20% of the U.S. electrical grid's power and produce 55% of the country's carbon-free energy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).
Garnering bipartisan support, nuclear power has become a desirable alternative to wind and solar, as a way to satisfy the nation's 21st-century energy needs without producing more carbon.
Although Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has endorsed nuclear power, the United States has a long way to go to ensure a steady supply, according to experts.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA), reports that domestic uranium production fell to an all-time low in 2019. And the U.S. sourced 46% of the mineral from Russia and Russian allies in 2020.
The U.S. Geological Survey also scratched uranium as a critical mineral last year — a decision that senators from Western states have sounded the alarm on.
"I'm worried about our domestic reliance on imported uranium, specifically and especially Russian-imported uranium," Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in March. "I think this poses a significant strategic risk to the United States.
"I'm also worried that the recent decision by the Biden administration to remove uranium from its critical minerals list is something that could have very real, harmful, lasting consequences."
Daniel Turner, the founder and executive director of the non-profit Power the Future, told The Federalist that the government's prediction for exponential growth of renewables is overly optimistic.
The problem is that the numbers are too reliant on capacity, Turner said, explaining that it's "a false statistic because if the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, it doesn't matter how much capacity" exists.
"Assuming full capacity is met, those numbers are great," he added.
Scott Melby, the president of the Uranium Producers of America, told lawmakers there was reason to be concerned.
"We've become a little lackadaisical about the supply of uranium," Melby said, explaining the situation was tolerated out of commercial interest despite the U.S. being home to over a billion pounds of known and likely resources which could be mined with "the highest environmental standards."
"We've got to pay attention to our uranium industry," Melby continued. "Countries like Russia, China are playing the long game. They're acquiring resources all over the world."
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