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Uranium Resources in the American West (1977)—Worldwide Implications1

Robert A. Brooks
Robert A. Brooks
Energy Reserves Group, Inc., Golden, Colorado 80401.
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January 01, 1981


Most of the uranium production of the United States occurs in the western part of the country; most of the reserves and resources are also located in the western United States. Although there has been some co-product uranium production from phosphates in the southeastern United States, more than 98% of the 282,400 tons of U3O8 produced through 1975 came from west of the Mississippi River. More than 70% of this production came from the Colorado Plateau, including the Grants mineral belt, and another 21% was produced from the Wyoming basins. Of the 890,000 tons of $50 reserves in the United States, about 50% occur in the Colorado Plateau and 35% occur in the Wyoming basins. Uranium resources are similarly distributed. The only significant resources in the probable and possible categories outside the far western United States are those found on the Texas coastal plain, although about 180,000 tons of U3O8 of speculative resources are found in the eastern United States.

The anticipated needs for uranium to fuel the planned 212 reactors in the United States through the year 2000 are about 975,000 tons. The United States government estimates the domestic uranium reserves to be 1,015,000 tons U3O8, or about the amount required for domestic use to the year 2000. Unfortunately, however, the projected production capability does not appear to be able to meet domestic requirements. Thus, sometime near the year 1990 an artificial shortfall in uranium availability will most likely occur.

At present there are 116 operating and 183 planned nuclear generating plants outside the United States. Countries with large uranium needs and inadequate identified uranium resources, such as the European countries, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Iran, and the Philippines, will be forced to look outside their boundaries for nuclear fuel.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the world uranium resource base at $50/lb, excluding the United States, Russia, and China, is about 3,360,000 tons. In the noncommunist world, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Sweden, and Niger have very large identified which produced 4,850 tons of U3O8 in 1976, has recently hardened its export policy; and Australia, with its very large and rapidly growing uranium resources, is unable to get into even meaningful production; when full production could be achieved is unknown and in considerable doubt. Other countries do not seem to be making significant progress toward getting identified uranium resources into production. Because the demand for uranium is expected to exceed production capability into and beyond the 1990s, it is inevitable that prices for uranium will continue to rise. Without increased worldwide production capability, the 1990s and beyond will see serious shortfalls in the uranium fuel supply.

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AAPG Studies in Geology

Energy Resources of the Pacific Region

Michel T. Halbouty
Michel T. Halbouty
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1981




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