Barrasso Says American, Not Russian, Uranium Needed To Power Kemmerer Plant

During a speech on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso told his colleagues that the country needed to end its reliance on Russia for certain energy sources, such as uranium.

Ellen Fike

March 17, 20224 min read

Barrasso hearing

American uranium should be the fuel source for a nuclear power plant proposed near Kemmerer, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said Thursday

Barrasso told his Senate collegues the United States needs to end its reliance on Russia for certain energy sources, such as uranium.

“Russia is our third-largest supplier of uranium, meeting 16% of U.S. demand. We need to eliminate our dependence on Russian uranium,” Barrasso said Thursday during hearings into the nomination of Kathryn Huff to serve as assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “We also need immediate action to develop an American supply of high-assay, low-enriched uranium. This is the fuel needed for advanced nuclear reactors, like TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, which will be built in my home state of Wyoming.”

TerraPower has said it has no choice but to use nuclear fuel rods created in Russia because there are no domestic suppliers of the rods. The company is working to develop a domestic source for the rods.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

Barrasso joined U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and two other senators on Thursday in introducing legislation that would ban the import of Russian uranium, a move that would cut Natrium’s supply of fuel.

Barrasso spokeswoman Gaby Hunt told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while American uranium fuel production probably won’t be sufficient to provide the initial fuel load for Natrium, expected to begin operations in 2027 or 2028, Barrasso is working to make sure domestic uranium sources will be available in the future. Hunt said Barrasso is looking at supplementing the domestic supply with fuel produced by the DOE until commercial production is sufficient to meet the demand.

Barrasso and Lummis agreed it makes little sense to help finance Russian aggression in Ukraine with purchases of fuel, including uranium.

“The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,” Barrasso said. “We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.”

Lummis added that it was “imperative” that the United States cut off all Russian imports, including uranium.

“Every dollar we send to Russia is a dollar used to continue to attack innocent people in Ukraine,” she said. “Wyoming has more than enough uranium to fill this gap, and we can mine it in a more environmentally friendly and safe way.”

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney told Wyoming reporters on Wednesday that she was also working to introduce similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the Wyoming Mining Association, Wyoming has around 450 million pounds of uranium in reserves, although the resource varies in price. About one pound of uranium can produce the same amount of power as 20,000 pounds of coal.

WMA spokesman Travis Deti did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The Natrium power plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant, is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

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Ellen Fike