Does the energy transition need a “Circular 5”? Back in the late 1940s the US Atomic Energy Commission fretted that it could not procure enough uranium on the private market to meet the requirements of its nuclear weapons production programmes.
The initial supply of Congolese uranium for the wartime Manhattan project had been scavenged in late 1942 from a warehouse in Staten Island, NY, where it had been sent in 1940 by an anti-Nazi Belgian businessman.
That uranium was enough to spark the first couple of wartime reactors, as well as a handful of nuclear weapons. But there did not seem to be enough uranium ore to continuously feed the vast establishment that had been built up to provide America with its superpower ace in the hole.
So beginning in April 1948, the AEC began issuing a series of public “circulars” that offered a minimum guaranteed price for uranium and a 10-year purchase contract, along with bonus payments for significant uranium finds in the US. The most fondly remembered was “Circular 5”, which established premium prices for higher grade ore, and which was in effect from February 1949 to March 1962.
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