Barrasso pushes federal relief for coal, nuclear

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“In essence, the argument that’s being made here is that taxpayers should pay twice: Once now to keep aging, uneconomic reactors online, and again when these units need to be replaced with clean renewables,” Ross, from Friends of the Earth, said. “Why delay the inevitable? Why pay twice?”

The proposal also aims to limit importation of uranium from Russia and China, which currently supply nearly all of the fuel used in U.S. nuclear reactors, and establish a domestic uranium supply chain — a target that could be an economic boon to Wyoming if achieved.

“Wyoming has long fueled our nation’s nuclear power plants and we want to keep it that way,” Barrasso said in a statement.

But the domestic uranium industry faces a number of obstacles. Environmental regulations make uranium costlier to produce in the U.S. than in Russia or China. And though uranium must be enriched before it can be used as fuel, there is virtually no domestic enrichment capacity, so uranium mined in the U.S. is shipped out of the country for processing.

With many reactors already struggling to compete with cheaper sources of electricity, nuclear plants’ operators can’t — or won’t — pay extra for domestic fuel when they can import it for less.

Mark Doelger, a registered professional geologist and president of B & H Geologists, had hoped a strategic uranium reserve proposed by the previous version of the bill might reverse the industry’s decades-long decline. But, he said, even a strategic reserve might not be enough.

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