Reliable Nuclear Deterrent
The United States is at risk of losing its only future capability to enrich uranium to meet key national security needs. The American Centrifuge Plant, which is designed to replace the aging Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, would be the only source of enriched uranium utilizing U.S. centrifuge technology.
Established treaties between the United States and other nuclear states prohibit the use of imported enrichment technology or imported enriched material for any military purpose. Currently, the United States uses low enriched uranium produced in Paducah to fuel nuclear reactors that produce tritium, a material essential to maintaining the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.
Remaining Relevant in Nonproliferation
Being one of the few nations with the ability to enrich uranium gives the United States a seat at the table as the international community works to limit the spread of uranium enrichment technologies to rogue nations. International negotiations over a future international nuclear fuel framework, whether it is in the form of an International Atomic Energy Agency fuel bank or some other mechanism, will largely be shaped by those nations with existing enrichment technology.
A continued U.S. presence in the nuclear fuel market can play a significant role in meeting world demand. Without that presence, market pressures open the door for new players to emerge, further jeopardizing nonproliferation goals. Further, the ability of the U.S. government to guarantee fuel supplies in exchange for promises to forgo domestic enrichment programs require a reliable, long-term domestic supply capability.
The U.S. share of the global enrichment market has declined dramatically and threatens to fall further or disappear completely without action, potentially causing America’s nuclear plants to become completely dependent on foreign sources of fuel.
Two decades ago, the United States produced nearly half of the world’s enriched uranium. Today, countries like Russia, France, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom account for nearly 90 percent of the world’s enriched uranium with the U.S. producing the remainder.