The continuing Russia-Ukraine struggle is exposing a lesser-known surprising hyperlink between Russia and the US: the nuclear gasoline provide chain. Again in March 2022, President Biden introduced sanctions on Russia’s vitality exports, particularly oil and gasoline. However one notable export was left off of that record: uranium.
In 2021, the US relied on Russia for 14 % of its enriched uranium for nuclear gasoline. The method of enriching uranium is very sophisticated and may solely be achieved in sure nations — together with Russia.
Uranium gasoline begins as uranium ore, a naturally occurring radioactive materials. Solely little or no of this ore is helpful for gasoline. As soon as mined, the ore is transformed into yellowcake, which is simply concentrated uranium. That yellowcake is become a gasoline, which is enriched with the isotope U-235. This isotope is fissile, making it extra environment friendly for nuclear gasoline. The enriched uranium is then fabricated into gasoline rods and can be utilized in a nuclear reactor.
Nuclear energy is very controversial. It creates a whole lot of hazardous waste, which is caught in political limbo within the US. There’s additionally the uncommon danger of meltdowns, like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Nonetheless, proponents say that nuclear energy is a vital supply of carbon-free vitality. Whereas photo voltaic and wind energy depend on the climate, nuclear energy is an on-demand choice that may fill in gaps left by different types of carbon-free electrical energy. With the Biden administration’s aim of reaching 100% carbon-free vitality by 2035, nuclear energy will doubtless proceed to be a hot-button situation.
Because the Russia-Ukraine struggle drags on, there are lots of ideas about how the US can turn out to be extra unbiased with its uranium provide. Try our video to study extra.