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Friday, June 01, 2007

What would you do with up to $3 billion in uranium?

The United States isn't exactly a growing uranium market - with no new commercial nuclear reactors constructed in thirty years - so when the federal government scooped up excess uranium at $10/pound over the years, it seemed a decent investment. Now that uranium is worth 12 times the price - $120/pound - and one private company wants the federal government to give them the uranium for free.


Okay, so it's not so simple as that. The company USEC, is operating the only uranium processing plant in the United States, originally constructed during the Manhattan Project and running on technology of that period. This company is also developing new processing technology that the U.S. government would receive royalties for. But they also don't seem to need a handout:
Fourth-quarter net earnings climbed 35% to $40.1 million.
And in 2003, the union workers at the USEC plant were on strike due to these grievances:
--- Use of contract workers without security clearances who are performing routine maintenance; --- Management and replacement workers lacking compulsory safety training; --- Inaccurate schematic diagrams for the plant's electrical and steam systems that make routine maintenance dangerous when performed by contract employees unfamiliar with the plant; --- Management personnel experiencing fatigue from having to work as many 12 hours per day, six days per week on reduced crews; and --- Potential problems arising out of the transfer and shipping of radioactive materials.
The company is also playing the nationalism card, as a European enrichment company has plans to construct an enrichment facility in the U.S. Interestingly, the challenger is noted for being a lot more efficient and experienced than USEC. So is a uranium gift a way to boost American industry or something like subsidized the H3 against the Toyota Prius, all in the name of America?

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