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Biden brags about first US-made nuclear fuel

Washington has been struggling to free itself from Russian enriched uranium supplies

A US facility has produced its first 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), President Joe Biden said on Friday, stressing that the US cannot rely on imported nuclear fuel from Russia.

Moscow is currently the only commercial source of HALEU for the US, which has gone from being the world’s biggest exporter of it to the biggest importer over the past seven decades.

“Today, I can announce that the IBEW plant in southern Ohio has already produced the first 200 pounds of that powerful enriched uranium… [the] first ever made in America,” Biden said as he addressed a construction conference in Washington.

He specified that the “advanced fuel” is needed for “the next generation” of nuclear reactors, and that the Ohio-based facility is expected to enrich “a ton by the end of the year,” which is enough “to power 100,000 homes.”

The US has relied on importing enriched uranium from countries such as Russia to power its nuclear reactors, which Washington “cannot trust at all,” Biden said. He stated that his administration had invested $3.4 billion into new production.

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Washington pushes for Russian uranium ban

In June, the federal government authorized a HALEU enrichment demonstration project at the plant in Piketon, Ohio. The complex facility, launched by the federal government back in 1954, enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and power plants until it was shuttered in 2001.

In October, the White House requested Congress provide $2.2 billion in funding to strengthen US energy independence by establishing domestic production of HALEU as well as low-enriched uranium. The Biden administration called enrichment a national security matter, saying that dependence on Russian uranium sources poses risks to the US economy and civil nuclear sector.

In December, the US House of Representatives passed a ban on imports of Russian uranium as part of the sanctions campaign against Moscow over the Ukraine conflict. However, the bill stalled in the Senate.

Washington has limited imports of Russian uranium to 20% of US domestic demand. Last year, it imported nearly $1.2 billion of Russian uranium, reaching a record high since 2009. Russia retained the top spot among US uranium suppliers in monetary terms, increasing the share of imports from 26% to 27% year-over-year.

April 20, 2024 at 05:01PM

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