Earlier, two major US-based uranium mining companies petitioned the Trump administration to require that 25 per cent of the uranium used by the nuclear power industry be sourced domestically.
President Donald Trump has decided against quotas on uranium production for the time being, saying late Friday that he didn’t agree with the conclusions of an earlier investigation by the US Commerce Department which warned that uranium imports had the potential to threaten US national security, Reuters has reported.
Instead, the president ordered a “fuller analysis of national security with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain” amid the “significant concerns” raised by the Commerce Department’s April study. The investigation will last 90 days and be run by a group of federal agencies.
According to US Energy Information Administration figures, the owners and operators of US nuclear power reactors purchased about 43 million pounds or 19,505 tonnes of uranium in 2017, with only about 7 per cent of these deliveries sourced inside the US, and the other 93 percent coming from other countries, including Canada (35 per cent), Australia (20 per cent), Russia (18 per cent), Kazakhstan, (12 per cent), Uzbekistan (5 per cent), and several other countries including South Africa and Ukraine.
Earlier, Colorado-based Energy Fuels Inc. and Wyoming-based Ur-Energy Inc. petitioned the White House to slap quotas on uranium requiring that 25 percent of the nuclear fuel used for domestic nuclear power plants be sourced domestically, and indicated that they were ready to increase production immediately if President Trump approved the proposal.
US officials including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have urged Trump to take action on the issue of the US’s alleged dependence on countries like Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, accusing these and other countries of ‘flooding the market’ amid US suppliers inability to compete on price.
According to the Australian Financial Review, a 25 per cent quota on uranium supplies would have added $500 million to the existing $800 million in costs to the nuclear power industry, which employs some 100,000 people directly and another 475,000 indirectly. The US uranium mining industry, meanwhile, is said to employ just 400 workers total, meaning the quota would effectively provide a $2 million subsidy for every worker in the industry.
The Trump administration began a review of US energy supply sources in late 2017 amid concerns over Washington’s economic rivalry with China, which escalated into a full-blown trade war in mid-2018.