The United States produced 174,000 pounds of uranium concentrate (U3O8) in 2019, which was 89% less than in 2018 and the lowest amount produced since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) data series began in 1949.
Domestic production of U3O8 has decreased from its peak of 43.7 million pounds in 1980.
Firstly, the production of U3O8 is the first step in the production of nuclear fuel.
After extracting the uranium ore, it goes through a grinding process that extracts uranium from the ore, producing U3O8.
Although the original mineral contains as little as 0.1% uranium (U), U3O8 is generally more than 80% uranium.
The U3O8 is then processed at the conversion and enrichment facilities, where it is converted into fuel pellets from the reactor. Fuel manufacturing plants assemble the fuel pellets into fuel rods for use in commercial nuclear reactors.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the United States introduced incentives and trade policies that encouraged the growth of domestic production of this chemical.
After these policies ended in the 1980s, national production began to decline.
Other countries, such as Canada and Australia, have more accessible, high-quality deposits of this metal, allowing them to produce U3O8 at a lower cost than the United States.
Since 1990, imports of U3O8 purchased have exceeded national production of U3O8 each year.
Canada, which has large reserves of this high-quality chemical, has historically been the largest source of uranium imports from the United States.
In 2019, Canada continued to be the largest source of U imports supplied to U.S. civilian nuclear power plants, followed by Kazakhstan, Australia, and Russia.