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The Economics of Strategic Choice: U.S. Uranium Enrichment in the World Market

For uranium to be used as fuel in light water reactors, the concen-tration of the fissionable U-235 isotope must be increased from the 0.711 percent found in natural uranium to about 3 percent. This service, termed enrichment, has been provided by the U.S. government since commercial nuclear powerplants began to operate in the late 1950s. The U.S. enrichment enterprise enjoyed a virtual monopoly until European competitors emerged in the late 1970s. These competitors not only took over service of their own national markets, but also began to offer enrichment worldwide under terms more attractive than those available from the United States. As a result, the U.S. share of the world market has declined to 47 percent and is likely to decline further in the absence of a competitive response.

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Energy Specializations: Nuclear Power – Policy and Regulation; Nuclear Power – Other

JEL Codes:
E60 - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook: General
Q49 - Energy: Other

Keywords: Uranium enrichment, US, Economics of strategic choice, Energy policy

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol7-No4-7

Published in Volume 7, Number 4 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.