Uranium imports studied; US producers seek protection

Trump Administration Investigating Uranium Imports Under National Security Concerns

Trump Administration Investigating Uranium Imports Under National Security Concerns

The U.S. Department of Commerce is launching an investigation into whether uranium imports threaten national security, potentially laying the groundwork for new tariffs against the chemical element necessary for nuclear power production.

Two American uranium producers, Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy, petitioned the government to launch this investigation back in January, citing concerns over the amount of foreign state-subsidized uranium being imported.

Ross said the probe would canvass the entire us uranium sector from mining through enrichment and defense and industrial consumption.

"Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to five percent", Ross said.

The provision allows for duties without a vote by Congress if imports are deemed a national-security threat, and was used this year to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The uranium inquiry is the latest of several trade-related steps the Trump administration has taken with an eye toward imposing stiff tariffs on imports. US uranium miners supply less than 5 per cent of domestic consumption for the metal and say it's increasingly hard to compete with state-subsidized companies overseas.

Canadian uranium producers could face either a tariff on uranium exports or a quota for US producers that would secure more market share for them.

In 2016, over 80 percent of the uranium used in U.S. nuclear power plants came from Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia and Russian Federation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Canada and Kazakhstan are the main sources of USA uranium imports, each accounting for about a quarter of the total, followed by Australia, Russia and Uzbekistan, according to the Energy Information Administration. "Foreign policies of other nations should not be permitted to jeopardize this crucial US industry", the statement said. According to the World Nuclear Association, Canada was the world's largest uranium producer for many years, accounting for about 22 percent of world output, but in 2009 was overtaken by Kazakhstan.

Cameco Corp., the Saskatchewan-based uranium company that accounts for 18 per cent of the world's uranium production and sells 30 per cent of its uranium to the United States, said it's too early to know the effect of the investigation.

"A robust domestic uranium mining industry is not only critical for national security, it's essential for Wyoming's economy", Enzi said.

Nuclear power provides 20percent of the U.S.' electricity, a fraction that is set to wane in the coming years: Since 2013, six of the nation's nuclear reactors have shut down permanently and 11 others are scheduled to be retired by 2025.

"Uranium is a required component of our nuclear arsenal and is used to power the Navy's nuclear fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers", he said.

The companies have laid off over half their workforce in the past two years and operate at roughly 9 - 13 percent of capacity, according to the statement.

Nearly 90 per cent of uranium delivered to US reactors was from foreign nations in 2016, according to the government agency.

The investigation comes a day before the department holds a hearing on whether the imports of automobiles and automotive parts threaten USA national security. It also suggests that USA federal utilities and agencies are required to buy USA uranium.

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