July 16, 2019
US President rejects request for uranium import quota
Uranium imports do not threaten the national security of the USA, President Donald Trump has decided in his response to the Uranium Miners’ Section 232 Petition. He did however call for a “fuller analysis” of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain.
In their filing of January 2018, two mining companies, Ur-Energy USA and Energy Fuels Resources, had contended that imports are pushing US uranium production to the brink of collapse, and asked the Trump administration to impose a quota requiring that 25% of domestic uranium consumption be met by US producers.
On 14 April, the Secretary of Commerce submitted to the President a report on his Department’s investigation into the effect of imports of uranium (uranium ore, uranium concentrate, uranium hexafluoride, enriched uranium, and enriched uranium in fuel assemblies) on national security under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The Secretary found and advised the President of his opinion that uranium is being imported into the USA in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the USA.
Trump responded on 12 July in a ‘Memorandum on the Effect of Uranium Imports on the National Security and Establishment of the United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group‘. The President said he did “not concur at this time” with the Secretary’s findings.
“Currently, the country imports about 93% of its commercial uranium, compared to 85.8% in 2009,” Trump wrote. “The Secretary found that this figure is because of increased production by foreign state-owned enterprises, which have distorted global prices and made it more difficult for domestic mines to compete.
“At this time, I do not concur with the Secretary’s finding that uranium imports threaten to impair the national security of the United States as defined under section 232 of the Act. Although I agree that the Secretary’s findings raise significant concerns regarding the impact of uranium imports on the national security with respect to domestic mining, I find that a fuller analysis of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain is necessary at this time.”
Regarding the Working Group, Trump wrote that he agreed with the Secretary that the US uranium industry faces significant challenges in producing uranium domestically and that this is an issue of national security.
“The United States requires domestically produced uranium to satisfy Department of Defense (DOD) requirements for maintaining effective military capabilities – including nuclear fuel for the United States Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines, source material for nuclear weapons, and other functions. Domestic mining, milling, and conversion of uranium, however, while significant, are only a part of the nuclear supply chain necessary for national security, including DOD needs,” he wrote.
On 29 June, 2017, Trump announced an initiative to revive and expand the nuclear energy sector and directed a complete review of the USA’s nuclear energy policy “to help find new ways to revitalise this crucial energy resource”.
In the memorandum, Trump wrote that the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shall establish a United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group to develop recommendations for reviving and expanding domestic nuclear fuel production.
“The Working Group shall examine the current state of domestic nuclear fuel production to reinvigorate the entire nuclear fuel supply chain, consistent with United States national security and non-proliferation goals,” he wrote.
Within 90 days of the date of the memorandum, the Working Group must submit a report to the President setting forth its findings and making recommendations to further enable domestic nuclear fuel production if needed.
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