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A Historical Review of the Relationship between the Federal Government and the Domestic Uranium Industry and Current Uranium Activities and Issues in New Mexico

Jon J. Indall, Uranium Exploration and Development

The Atomic Energy Commission (“AEC”) was established by the Atomic Energy Act (“AEA”) of 1946 in recognition of a need to provide for a civilian Government agency which could assure the continued development of atomic energy for military purposes and also promote the research and development necessary to the utilization of atomic energy for peaceful applications.

During World War II the Manhattan Engineer District (“MED”), under the Army Corps of Engineers, had been charged with the development of atomic weapons. MED's activities included the acquisition of uranium, the basic raw material essential to the production of nuclear weapons. AEC assumed management of the Government uranium procurement program from MED in 1947. Up to this time, MED had purchased about 10,000 tons of U3O8 for use in developing atomic weapons. Only about 15 percent of that amount, obtained as a vanadium byproduct, was attributable to domestic production. Five vanadium processing plants operated on the Colorado Plateau during World War II, aided by a Government program offering incentive for vanadium production. The vanadium program was terminated in 1944. By the end of 1946, only one plant was still operating on the Colorado Plateau, and uranium production was practically nil.1 It was from this almost nonexistent resource base that AEC launched its Domestic Uranium Procurement Program in 1947.<