Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that he has launched an investigation into whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security. The investigation will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, 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,” said Secretary Ross. “The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent review to determine whether uranium imports threaten to impair national security.”
This decision follows a petition filed by two U.S. uranium mining companies, and comes after consultation with industry stakeholders, members of Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other administration partners. This morning, Secretary Ross sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, informing him of the initiation of the investigation.
Key considerations prompting the investigation:
- Uranium powers 99 U.S. commercial nuclear reactors that produce 20 percent of the electricity for the U.S. electric grid, a key element to U.S. critical infrastructure.
- Uranium is a required component of our nuclear arsenal and is used to power the Navy’s nuclear fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.
- U.S. uranium production had been 49 percent of U.S. requirements in 1987. Today, U.S. uranium production has dropped to only five percent of U.S. requirements.
- Three U.S. companies with mining operations have been idled in recent years.
- Two U.S. petitioners, accounting for over half of all uranium mined in the U.S., have laid off over half their workforce over the last two years and operate at roughly nine percent and 13 percent of capacity respectively.
- Shuttered mines would take years to reopen under current environmental permitting regulations.
On January 17, 2018, two U.S. uranium mining companies, UR-Energy and Energy Fuels, filed a petition requesting that the Commerce Department initiate a Section 232 investigation into imports of uranium ore and products. Secretary Ross decided to accept the petition and initiate the investigation after careful review of the petition.