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Energy & Environment

USGS: Texas Uranium Deposits Could Provide US Nuclear Energy for Years

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Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Texas Tribune
A photo of yellow cake uranium at a Hobson processing plant. A USGS study found that Texas may be rich in uranium oxide.

Natural gas, coal, wind are the resources that usually come to mind when we think about power generation in Texas. But a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey estimates Texas has enough uranium underground to power nuclear plants across the country for five years.

The USGS assessment found a 60-million-ton concentration of unmined uranium oxide embedded in sandstone under the Texas Coastal Plain – a deposit that, if developed, the agency estimates could supply a year’s worth of power to U.S. nuclear reactors.

The study also estimates that around 200 million pounds of uranium could be found in South Texas, in roughly the same part of the state where the Eagle Ford Shale holds massive reserves of oil and natural gas.

The study comes out right as supporters of nuclear are seeing a new opportunity. They think their fuel of choice might become an appealing option as the U.S. looks for fossil fuel alternatives to fight climate change. But, nuclear may still have a long way to go.

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Credit Courtesy of USGS

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns in Japan further turned public opinion against the fuel. A new report from scientists at UT Austin has also called into question the long-term safety of one method of storing nuclear waste, suggesting the waste from the spent nuclear fuel could erode through rock salt deposits – where the waste is stored – and, potentially, into groundwater.

While nuclear power is responsible for fewer than 10 percent of the electricity produced in Texas, it accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. electricity use.

At a Bloomberg BNA-sponsored event last night, outgoing Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis said that the city’s utility couldn’t affordably achieve Austin’s clean energy goals without nuclear power, which makes up about 16 percent of the utility’s energy portfolio.

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