Is America's Nuclear Fuel Supply Safe?

Atomic energy supplies approximately one-fifth of all energy used in the United States, which is the world's largest producer. However, due to the geographic realities associated with the world's distribution of uranium deposits Uncle Sam is incredibly dependent on foreign suppliers. Consider that 83% of the 58 million pounds of uranium purchased by American nuclear plants in 2012 was imported. Meanwhile, 38% of enriched uranium required came from foreign enrichment facilities. By comparison, only 40% of crude oil needs were imported last year.

Source: EIA

To be clear, the nuclear fuel cycle begins with mined uranium, is processed into uranium concentrate (the focus of the graphic), converted to uranium hexafluoride, enriched, and fabricated into reactor-ready fuel. While there is a decent amount of diversification in the map above, there are also a limited number of sources to choose from. For instance, Exelon (NYSE: EXC  ) , the nation's largest generator of nuclear energy, is set to acquire 60% of its fuel needs from just three producers through 2017. Given nuclear energy's importance to the national grid, how big of a risk is the industry's dependence on five countries for 84% of its fuel? Is it the biggest risk facing nuclear generators? Fool contributor Maxx Chatsko looks deeper in the following video.

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  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2013, at 11:29 PM, blimpus wrote:

    Maxx Chatsko wrote:"Atomic energy supplies approximately one-fifth of all energy used in the United States, which is the world's largest producer."

    Atomic power provides about 19% (compared with 13% for renewables) of ELECTRICITY, not ENERGY. Most energy is non-electric - transportation fuels, industrial heat, residential heating, etc. Atomic power supplies only 8% of our total energy production - or in other words, 92% of US production is non-nuclear.

    Even then, because of the massive inefficiencies that result from centralized production, combined with the physics of electricity production and distribution, the total contribution of atomic power disappears in the "noise": See this example "spaghetti chart" from LLNL. https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2013, at 11:32 PM, blimpus wrote:
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