US production of uranium concentrate topped 4.8 million pounds in 2013, the highest level since 1997, according to preliminary figures released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Production has ramped up to partially offset imports from the Megatons to Megawatts program, which made its last delivery in December 2013, EIA said.
Seven US uranium concentrate processing facilities produced a total of 4,807,709 pounds U3O8 in 2013, 16% higher than the 4,145,647 pounds produced in 2012.
These facilities included the White Mesa Mill in Utah, owned by Energy Fuels Inc, which began production in the fourth quarter of 2013, and is the only operating conventional uranium mill in the US.
The other six production facilities are in-situ leach plants: Alta Mesa Project (Texas); Crow Butte Operation (Nebraska); Hobson ISR Plant/La Palangana (Texas); Lost Creek Project (Wyoming); Smith Ranch-Highland Operation (Wyoming) and Willow Creek Project (Wyoming)
EIA reported that uranium concentrate production from Wyoming totalled 883,544 pounds U3O8 in the fourth quarter of 2013, with the remaining 211,624 pounds U3O8 (19%) coming from Nebraska, Texas, and Utah. The data were released in the EIA's quarterly Domestic Uranium Production Report
Uranium concentrate production in the US since 1996 (Source EIA)
US uranium requirements
EIA said that 2013 production of 4.8 million pounds U3O8 represented "about 10%" of that year's anticipated uranium market requirements at US civilian nuclear power reactors.
Owners and operators of the 100 reactors at US nuclear power plants are expected to need 48 million pounds of uranium in 2014, according to EIA figures.
"These market requirements include the quantity of uranium that is under contract plus additional uranium that companies are planning to purchase to fuel their nuclear power plants, based on plans for maintaining uranium inventories for their future refuelling cycles," EIA said.
Uranium inventories owned by US nuclear power plants stood at 97 million pounds at the end of 2012. These inventories comprised uranium in different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle (in-process for conversion, enrichment, or fabrication) at domestic or foreign nuclear fuel facilities.