NEI requests DOE predictably release uranium from stockpile

Published on September 27, 2016 by Robert Moore

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) requested on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) release uranium from its stockpile thoughtfully and predictably, in a way that will not adversely impact the domestic uranium industry.

The DOE’s Office of Uranium Management and Policy is responsible for an inventory of excess uranium. The inventory was obtained through former enrichment services, defense programs, international agreements and several other sources. The office acts to guarantee that domestic supplies can access fuel for nuclear power plants and oversees the DOE’s uranium enrichment activities. The DOE’s uranium inventory potentially has a monetary value and helps to maintain a domestic nuclear infrastructure, as described by the DOE’s website.

According to the USEC Privatization Act, the secretary of energy must determine that the sale or transfer of uranium stocks will not have an adverse effect on the domestic nuclear fuel industry.

“The department should use an approach that provides long-term predictability and transparency in its inventory management program,” NEI Director of Fuel Cycle Programs Suzanne Phelps said. “The industry believes that establishing the annual amounts to be transferred, adhering to the established quantities and, where possible, entering into long-term contracts will help DOE to fulfill its commitment and provide a good value to DOE and the taxpayer.”

The DOE has transferred stockpiled uranium in the past few years in exchange for cleanup services at the closed Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The plant was built in the 1950s to enrich uranium in preparation for the nation’s nuclear weapons program, the U.S. Navy and, eventually, commercial reactors.

Phelps said that the industry has already paid for the clean-up of Portsmouth and other gaseous diffusion plants. Phelps continues to oppose any plan that would reinstate the uranium enrichment decontamination and decommissioning tax. Congress and the Obama administration have attempted to levy the tax to help pay for the cleanup of the plants.