US launches national security probe into uranium imports National News

US launches national security probe into uranium imports National News

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the department would investigate whether imported uranium ore and related products - key ingredients in the us nuclear arsenal, and used in power production and nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers - threatened national security.

The formal probe, which follows a petition filed by US uranium mining companies, is to examine whether the current "quantity and circumstances" of imports of uranium ore and uranium products threaten national security, the department said in a statement.

The investigation, which opens a new front in U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" trade campaign, "will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption", the commerce department said.

"Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption [in 1987] to five percent [today]", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. The Commerce Department similarly launched a review centered on a trade law known as Section 232, which allows tariffs to be placed on imports in the name of national security, before imposing those tariffs.

A second investigation, focused on the threat to security posed by auto imports, is ongoing. The Saskatchewan-based uranium company accounts for 18 per cent of the world's uranium production and sells 30 per cent of its uranium to the United States. As recently as the first three months of 2014, US production was 1.2 million pounds.

Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in US power generation, according to the Energy Department.

Those tariffs, which hit Russia's steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against USA agriculture and other goods, alarming many US businesses and lawmakers.


Prices have since bumped up to about $23 a pound following production cuts at leading producers KazAtomProm in Kazakhstan and Cameco Corp.in Canada.

Congress would likely have an easier time supporting restrictions on uranium imports - given their use as nuclear power plant fuel - than it did backing measures on steel and aluminum, said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets. That is 50 percent lower than just a year earlier.

The probe, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, was prompted following concerns raised by two USA uranium mining companies.

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

Uranium powers 99 commercial nuclear reactors that produce 20 percent of electricity in the country's grid, in addition to powering the Navy's nuclear fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers. "If the issue in question is the over-reliance of the United States on uranium supplied by state-controlled enterprises from countries not aligned with American policy interests, this clearly does not apply to Canada or Cameco", Gitzel said.

In a joint statement yesterday, Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels noted the Secretary of Commerce now has 270 days to conduct the investigation and submit a report to the US President containing his findings and proposed remedy, if any.

The petition wants a quota set to limit imports of uranium into the U.S., effectively reserving 25% of the United States market for US uranium production.

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