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

David L. Bodde, Mollie V. Quasebarth, and John B. Thomasian

Year: 1986
Volume: Volume 7
Number: Number 4
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol7-No4-7
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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.

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

George F. Combs, Jr.

Year: 1989
Volume: Volume 10
Number: Number 1
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol10-No1-17
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In an earlier paper in The Energy Journal, Bodde, Quasebarth, and Thomasian (1986) discussed two pricing options that the U.S. government could pursue in selling enrichment services to the market, and noted the likely outcomes that adherence to each strategy would produce. While the authors considered the structure of the enrichment market and the cost advantages of new enrichment technology, they failed to take into account enrichment's role in the nuclear fuel cycle, particularly the degree to which enrichment and uranium can be substituted for one another. This omission is particularly significant, given the potential for the relative economics of enrichment and uranium to be affected due to the cost improvements and technological advances being made in enrichment.

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