SALT LAKE CITY — President Trump’s $1.5 billion proposal to prop up the country’s nuclear fuel industry has emboldened at least one company, Canada-based Energy Fuels Inc., to take steps toward boosting operations at dormant uranium mines around the West, including outside Grand Canyon National Park.
The Trump administration asked Congress this week for $1.5 billion over 10 years to create a new national stockpile of US-mined uranium, saying that propping up production in the face of cheaper imports is a matter of vital energy security. Approval is far from certain in a highly bipartisan Congress.
Some Democratic lawmakers, and market analysts across the political spectrum, charge that the Trump administration’s aim is really about helping a few uranium companies that can’t compete in the global market, and their investors.
Energy Fuels Inc. announced it was selling stock and putting the nearly $17 million in proceeds into mining operations in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, and elsewhere in response to Trump’s plan. Company spokesman Curtis Moore said Friday that could mean opening the mine 15 miles outside the Grand Canyon.
Environmentalists and Democrats have opposed uranium mining outside the national park, mainly over concerns it could contaminate water resources. Republicans say mining could bring much-needed jobs to the region.
Demand for nuclear and coal power sources has fallen against marketplace competition from ever-cheaper natural gas and renewable wind and solar. Trump has been unable to stop a string of coal and nuclear power plant closings.
The US nuclear industry has sought help from the Trump administration, including asking for taxpayer subsidies to promote use of US uranium. US nuclear power plants in 2018 got 90 percent of their uranium from Canada, Kazakhstan, and other foreign suppliers and only 10 percent from US mines.