Abstract

Governments, and uranium producers and buyers assess policy implications for uranium markets by understanding the price of uranium and the role of government policy over time. To understand the key elements in the formation of price and policy in uranium markets, this study uses the institutional economics method to investigate the institutional arrangements used for procuring uranium in the Manhattan Project (1942-1946). Throughout this period, the formation of price expectations were bounded by the opportunities to receive revenue from selling uranium ore as a by product and as a main product. In regards to policy formation, price expectations were guided by the need to secure ore for customers, to secure income stability for producers, and to maintain competitive conditions in establishing price stabilization as the main policy. Similar pricing rules and concerns with price stabilization were adopted throughout the uranium market history. These recurring similarities in customs, which are understood through the underlying competitive behavior, are expected to be adapted to contemporary trends, such as global climate change, the joint ownership of mines, and the creation of the Low Enriched Uranium Bank. The contemporary trends represent the new negotiating circumstances for uranium market participants. Therefore, elements in understanding the formation of pricing and price stabilization policy during the Manhattan Project may be adapted to frame future assessments of uranium markets as participants consider advanced nuclear reactors and various nuclear fuel cycles as an option in adapting to contemporary trends.

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