WASHINGTON – A plea from uranium mining companies and nuclear power plant operators for tax breaks and other federal financial boosts is going before President Donald Trump, as his administration studies reviving the U.S. uranium industry in the name of national security. Trump is scheduled to receive recommendations Thursday from a task force of national security, military and other federal officials about ways to revive U.S. uranium mining, which has lagged against global competition amid low uranium ore prices. Uranium is a vital component for the country's nuclear arsenal, submarines and nuclear power plants. U.S. uranium users get about 10 percent of their supply from domestic sources, the federal Energy Information Administration has said. Most of the rest comes from Canada and Australia, followed by Russia and former Soviet republics.
Signs on the gates of an abandoned uranium mine in Red Water Pond, Navajo Nation. On Thursday morning, Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announced "an array of policy options to restore America's leadership in nuclear energy" by reducing the nation's dependence on foreign uranium suppliers. Compiled by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group over the past nine months, the recommendations amount to a thinly veiled exercise in crony capitalism: streamlining the permitting process for uranium mining on public lands, creating a new federal uranium reserve, and allocating $150 million per year to stock that reserve with domestically mined uranium. According to the Department of Commerce, importing uranium from countries like Russia and Kazahkstan "creates strategic vulnerabilities to both our economy and military." This logic, echoed by the Department of Energy's announcement and recent statements by Republican lawmakers, implies that foreign adversaries could exploit US reliance on their uranium to disrupt our production of nuclear energy and weapons.
The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended the White House take steps to protect the domestic production of uranium after finding the nation's reliance on imports was a national security risk, according to three people briefed on the matter. Among the trade remedies recommended is to require nuclear power plants to purchase a minimum of 5 percent of the radioactive fuel from U.S. mines, said the people who requested anonymity to discuss non-public deliberations. Two of the people said an option under consideration would see the quota escalate by 5 percentage points a year. A decision to impose the quotas would be a boon to the two small mining companies that petitioned the Commerce Department to take action, Energy Fuels Inc. and Ur-Energy Inc. The move would increase costs for nuclear reactor operators that are already struggling in the face of competition from cheaper sources of power generated by natural gas and renewables.
Attorney Victoria Toensing on an FBI informant's allegations related to the Uranium One deal. The values that settled and protected America's West are unwavering and unchanging. In the 33 states and territories of the 75 members of our bipartisan Congressional Western Caucus, we believe in local and regional control of our destiny, not reliance on others. We fiercely advance energy dominance and independence. And we are committed to securing America's energy future and national security.
In the wake of Uranium One, some lawmakers are now calling for further investigation into Russian influence on U.S. nuclear supply. As questions and investigations about Russian influence in our election process continue, what many Americans may not realize is that adversarial countries, like Russia, stand to have an outsized influence over our power grid. Uranium, which is on an Interior Department target list of critical minerals, fuels nuclear power plants, which generate 20 percent of electricity in the United States. It also helps power U.S. Navy assets. One pound of uranium is equivalent to 20,000 pounds of coal.