WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump says he will not impose quotas on importing uranium, backing away from a possible trade confrontation and breaking with a Commerce Department assessment that America's use of foreign uranium raises national security concerns. The decision is unusual for Trump, who has pointed to national security concerns in calling for restrictions on foreign metal and autos in trade negotiations. It is also drawing rare criticism from Republicans in energy-rich states. Uranium is a vital component for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, submarines and power plants, which prompted a monthslong Commerce Department investigation into whether such materials fall under the national security umbrella. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that just 5 percent of the uranium the U.S. needs for military and electricity generation comes from domestic production.
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.
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.
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.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. nuclear energy industry has called for the Trump administration to revive domestic uranium mining and enrichment by unlocking funds through a Cold War-era program, in a letter sent to a Cabinet-level working group. The Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute, or NEI, to national security adviser John Bolton and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, urges the Trump administration to authorize funds through the 1950 Defense Production Act to procure domestic fuel for defense requirements and boost federal reserves of uranium for nuclear power utilities. In the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the NEI urges unspecified "direct payments to either a U.S. utility or domestic uranium producer for sale of U.S.-origin uranium to a utility." "The most effective support the federal government can provide to the domestic mining, conversion, and enrichment industries is to fulfill the government's national security needs with long-term contracts," the letter says. Some experts question the necessity of taking such measures, arguing that the United States has enough uranium in stockpiles including the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee for submarines, aircraft carriers, weapons and energy for decades.