Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels Resources signed a joint petition on January 16 regarding imports of uranium from state-owned and state-subsidized companies primarily in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and possibly China. The petitioners claim that “[the United States] cannot afford to depend on foreign sources – particularly Russia, and those in its sphere of influence, and China – for the element that provides the backbone of our nuclear deterrent, powers the ships and submarines of America’s nuclear Navy, and supplies 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.”
The Petitioners have asked the Department of Commerce to expedite the investigation and for the President to impose quota restrictions on uranium products from Russia. Specifically, they seek to reserve 25 percent of the U.S. market for domestic uranium and a requirement for U.S. government agencies to purchase uranium from domestic sources.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) also asked for Commerce to launch an investigation under Section 232 on the effects of uranium imports on national security. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, uranium from state-subsidized companies in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, provides approximately 40 percent of U.S. uranium. Barrasso argues that the United States, however, produces less than 5 percent of the yellowcake (uranium oxide) it consumes, with the majority of U.S. uranium production in Wyoming.
Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is still reviewing the petition to determine if it meets the threshold to begin an investigation. If Commerce decides to act, it has 270 days to report their findings to the President. The President then has 90 days to decide whether an article that is imported into the United States has threatened or impaired national security. If the President determines that the article is impairing national security, he has 15 days to implement any potential action. Once the President makes a decision, he has 30 days to write a public statement on why he decided to take (or refused to take) such action.
An investigation on uranium imports would be the third probe under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 since President Trump took office early 2017. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross submitted the Section 232 reports to the White House on steel and aluminum on January 11 and January 22, respectively.