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Domestic Uranium Production Report - Annual

With Data for 2017  |  Release Date: May 22, 2018  |  Next Release Date: May 2019
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Previous domestic uranium production reports

Drilling

Total uranium drilling was 420 holes with total footage of 0.2 million feet, which is 64% fewer holes than in 2016. Expenditures for uranium drilling in the United States were $4 million in 2017, an 82% decrease compared with 2016.

Mining, production, shipments, and sales

U.S. uranium mines produced 1.2 million pounds of triuranium octoxide (U3O8), or uranium concentrate[1] , in 2017, 55% less than in 2016. The production of uranium concentrate is the first step in the nuclear fuel production process, preceding the conversion of U3O8 into UF6, to enable uranium enrichment, then fuel pellet fabrication, and finally fuel assembly fabrication. Six in-situ leach (ISL) mining operations produced solutions containing uranium in 2017, two fewer than in 2016.

Total production of U.S. uranium concentrate in 2017 was 2.4 million pounds U3O8, 16% less than in 2016, from seven facilities: one mill in Utah (White Mesa Mill) and six in-situ leaching (ISL) plants in Nebraska and Wyoming (Crow Butte Operation, Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Ross CPP, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation and Willow Creek Project).

Total shipments of uranium concentrate from U.S. mill and ISL plants were 2.3 million pounds U3O8 in 2017, 25% less than in 2016. U.S. producers sold 1.3 million pounds U3O8 of uranium concentrate in 2017 at a weighted-average price of $41.34 per pound U3O8.

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

At the end of 2017, the White Mesa Mill in Utah was operating with a capacity of 2,000 short tons of material 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 material per day. One mill is planned for Colorado (Pinon Ridge Mill), and one heap leach plant is planned for Wyoming (Sheep Mountain).

At the end of 2017, six U.S. uranium ISL plants were operating with a combined capacity of 12.2 million pounds U3O8 per year (Crow Butte Operation in Nebraska and Lost Creek Project, Nichols Ranch ISR Project, Ross CPP, Smith Ranch-Highland Operation, and Willow Creek Project in Wyoming). Four ISL plants were on standby as of the end of 2017, and six ISL plants were planned for three states: New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Employment

Total employment in the U.S. uranium production industry was 424 full-time person-years in 2017, a decrease of 24% from the 2016 total and the lowest level since 2004. Exploration employment was 50 person-years, a 32% increase from the 2016 total. Mining employment was 136 person-years, a 47% decrease from 2016. Reclamation employment increased 2% to 100 person-years from 2016 to 2017. Uranium production industry employment for 2016 was in 8 States: Alaska, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Wyoming accounted for 58% of total employment in the U.S. uranium production industry in 2017.

Expenditures

Total expenditures for land, exploration, drilling, production, and reclamation were $123 million in 2017, 28% less than in 2016 and the lowest total since 2004. Expenditures for U.S. uranium production, including facility expenses, were the largest category of expenditures at $78 million in 2017, down 20% from the 2016 level and the lowest total since 2006. Uranium exploration expenditures were $3.7 million in 2017, up 48% from 2016 but the second-lowest total since at least 2006. Expenditures for land were $9 million in 2017, a 10% decrease compared with 2016. Reclamation expenditures were $28 million, a 26% decrease compared with 2016 and the lowest total since at least 2006.

Reserve estimates

At the end of 2017, reported estimated uranium reserves were 45 million pounds U3O8 at a maximum forward cost of up to $30 per pound. At up to $50 per pound, reported estimated reserves were 182 million pounds U3O8. At up to $100 per pound, reported estimated reserves were 362 million pounds U3O8. These estimates are a fraction of likely total domestic uranium reserves. Inferred resources that were not reported because of a lack of cost estimates or the reserves not being located on actively managed properties are not included in these totals.

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 on 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. The NURE data have not been comprehensively updated in many years and are no longer considered a current data source.

Table 1. U.S. uranium drilling activities, 2003–17
  Exploration drilling Development drilling Exploration and development drilling
Year Number of holes Feet (thousand) Number of holes Feet (thousand) Number of holes Feet (thousand)
2003 NA NA NA NA W W
2004 W W W W 2,185 1,249
2005 W W W W 3,143 1,668
2006 1,473 821 3,430 1,892 4,903 2,713
2007 4,351 2,200 4,996 2,946 9,347 5,146
2008 5,198 2,543 4,157 2,551 9,355 5,093
2009 1,790 1,051 3,889 2,691 5,679 3,742
2010 2,439 1,460 4,770 3,444 7,209 4,904
2011 5,441 3,322 5,156 3,003 10,597 6,325
2012 5,112 3,447 5,970 3,709 11,082 7,156
2013 1,231 919 4,013 2,926 5,244 3,845
2014 W W W W 1,752 1,299
2015 W W W W 1,518 878
2016 W W W W 1,158 757
2017 W W W W 420 196
NA = Not available.
W = Data withheld to avoid disclosure of individual company data.
Note: Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration: Form EIA-851A, Domestic Uranium Production Report (2003–17).

Figure 1. U.S. Uranium drilling by number of holes, 2005-17

Figure 2. Figure 2. U.S. uranium drilling in footage, 2005-17

Footnote

1. A 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