Nuclear & Uranium

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Domestic Uranium Production Report - Annual

With Data for 2016  |  Release Date: May 24, 2017  |  Next Release Date: May 2018
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Previous domestic uranium production reports

Drilling

Total uranium drilling was 1,158 holes with total footage of 0.8 million feet in 2016, 14% fewer holes than in 2015. Expenditures for uranium drilling in the United States were $22 million in 2016, a 22% decrease compared with 2015.

Figure 1. U.S. Uranium drilling by number of holes, 2004-16

Mining, production, shipments, and sales

U.S. uranium mines produced 2.5 million pounds U3O8 in 2016, 31% less than in 2015 and the lowest total since 2004. Seven in-situ-leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2016, one more than in 2015.

Total production of U.S. uranium concentrate1 in 2016 was 2.9 million pounds U3O8, 14% less than in 2015, from eight facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and seven ISL plants (Crow Butte Operation, Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana, Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Ross CPP, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation and Willow Creek Project). The seven ISL plants are located in Nebraska and Wyoming.

Total shipments of uranium concentrate from U.S. mill and ISL plants were 3.0 million pounds U3O8 in 2016, 25% less than in 2015. U.S. producers sold 2.7 million pounds U3O8 of uranium concentrate in 2016 at a weighted-average price of $38.22 per pound U3O8.

Facility status (mills, heap leach plants, and in-situ-leach plants)

At the end of 2016, the White Mesa Mill in Utah was operating-processing alternate feed with a capacity of 2,000 short tons of ore per day. Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill in Utah and Sweetwater Uranium Project in Wyoming were on standby with a total capacity of 3,750 short tons of ore per day. There is one mill planned for Colorado (Pinon Ridge Mill) and one heap leach plant planned for Wyoming (Sheep Mountain).

At the end of 2016, seven U.S. uranium ISL plants were operating with a combined capacity of 14.2 million pounds U3O8 per year (Crow Butte Operation in Nebraska; Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana in Texas; Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Ross CPP, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project in Wyoming). There were three ISL plants on standby as of the end of 2016 and seven ISL plants planned in New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

Employment

Figure 3. Employment iin the U.S. Uranium Production Industry by Category, 2004-13

Total employment in the U.S. uranium production industry was 560 person-years in 2016, a decrease of 10% from the 2015 total and the lowest since 2004. Exploration employment was 38 person-years, a 34% decrease compared with 2015. Mining employment was 255 person-years, a 2% increase from 2015. Milling and processing employment was 169 person-years, a 16% decrease from 2015. Reclamation employment decreased 16% to 98 person-years from 2015 to 2016. Uranium production industry employment for 2016 was in 9 States: Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Expenditures

Total expenditures for land, exploration, drilling, production, and reclamation were $170 million in 2016, 24% less than in 2015. Expenditures for U.S. uranium production, including facility expenses, were the largest category of expenditures at $98 million in 2016 and were down by 17% from the 2015 level. Uranium exploration expenditures were $2.5 million in 2016, down 47% from 2015. Expenditures for land were $10 million in 2016, an 18% decrease compared with 2015.  Reclamation expenditures were $37 million, a 37% decrease compared with 2015.

Reserve estimates

At the end of 2016, estimated uranium reserves were 60 million pounds U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to $30 per pound. At up to $50 per pound, estimated reserves were 160 million pounds U3O8. At up to $100 per pound, estimated reserves were 339 million pounds U3O8.

The uranium reserve estimates presented here cannot be compared with the much larger historical data set of uranium reserves published in the July 2010 report U.S. Uranium Reserves Estimates.  Those reserve estimates were made by EIA based on data collected by EIA and data developed by the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) program, operated out of Grand Junction, Colorado, by DOE and predecessor organizations.  The EIA data covered approximately 200 uranium properties with reserve estimates, collected from 1984 through 2002. The NURE data covered approximately 800 uranium properties with reserve estimates, developed from 1974 through 1983.  Although the data collected by the Form EIA-851A survey covers a much smaller set of properties than the earlier EIA data and NURE data, EIA believes that within its scope the EIA-851A data provides more reliable estimates of the uranium recoverable at the specified forward cost than estimates derived from 1974 through 2002.  In particular, this is because the NURE data has not been comprehensively updated in many years and are no longer a current data source.

Footnote

1A yellow or brown powder obtained by the milling of uranium ore, processing of in situ leach mining solutions, or as a byproduct of phosphoric acid production.