U.S. to Boost Low-Enriched Uranium Production; Looks to Reduce Dependence on Russia

Courtesy of Office of Nuclear Energy
Kathryn Huff, U.S. assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy

WASHINGTON — The United States plans to boost its production capabilities of low-enriched uranium, which is utilized as fuel in nuclear power plants, Kathryn Huff, U.S. assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, has told The Yomiuri Shimbun. Huff, who oversees the nation’s nuclear energy policy, said the United States intends to diminish its reliance on Russia — a nation with which it has been at loggerheads following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in February 2022 — in terms of the procurement of low-enriched uranium.

Nuclear power provides 20% of the electricity in the United States. However, the nation currently produces only about 30% of the low-enriched uranium necessary for this level of nuclear power generation and relies on Russia for a further 20%. According to Huff, about $2.2 billion will be invested to help U.S. companies expand their facilities and boost their low-enriched uranium production capabilities. The government will soon begin publicly soliciting companies for the initiative.

Natural uranium is converted into low-enriched uranium through several processes, including enrichment, which increases the proportion of the uranium isotope capable of sustaining a nuclear fission reaction. The Russian state-owned company Rosatom holds a nearly 50% share of the global market for enriched uranium.

Aiming to establish an enriched uranium production capacity free from Russian influence, Japan, the United States, Britain, France and Canada announced a joint declaration in December last year, saying they will “pursue at least $4.2 billion [¥610 billion] in government-led and private investment in our five nations’ collective enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years.”

The United States, leading this five-nation initiative, will invest the majority of the funds.

Huff emphasized the need for a stable global supply network of low-enriched uranium, highlighting Russia’s unreliability as a supplier due to its readiness to wield energy as a weapon against other nations.