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US nuclear, uranium mining industries hope for Trump bailout

WASHINGTON (AP) — A plea from uranium mining companies and nuclear power plant operators for tax breaks and other federal financial boosts is going before President Donald Trump, as his administration studies reviving the U.S. uranium industry in the name of national security.

Trump is scheduled to receive recommendations Thursday from a task force of national security, military and other federal officials about ways to revive U.S. uranium mining, which has lagged against global competition amid low uranium ore prices.

Uranium is a vital component for the country’s nuclear arsenal, submarines and nuclear power plants. U.S. uranium users get about 10% of their supply from domestic sources, the federal Energy Information Administration has said. Most of the rest comes from Canada and Australia, followed by Russia and former Soviet republics.

U.S. uranium mining interests have pressured Trump to require uranium users to get 25% of what they use from domestic suppliers, saying the global market is vulnerable to geopolitical turmoil. Trump rejected the quota idea this past summer and gave the task force 90 days to come up with other ideas.

An Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group laid out the sector’s requests, including a recommendation for the Defense Department to procure more domestic uranium for military needs and for subsidies for electric utilities or uranium producers for the production of up to 3 million pounds of partially processed uranium yearly.

Nuclear power plants, which have been suffering in the U.S. marketplace against cheaper natural gas and renewables, also are seeking assistance. Plant operators and utilities had opposed the production quota sought by mining interests.

“There are reactors out there that are financially in difficulty,” Matthew Wald, a Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman, said this week. “We would like to see a thriving domestic uranium industry … We don’t want something that will raise the costs of domestic reactors.”

If the Trump administration ever imposes sanctions against Russia, that could limit the U.S. uranium users can get from that country, said Curtis Moore, a spokesman for Colorado-based Energy Fuels Inc., a uranium mining company.

“Do we really want to put our energy security and national security in the hands of our adversaries? That’s just not smart policy,” Moore said.

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