Primarily known for its energy applications, (and thus falling under the purview of the Department of Energy) uranium may have not been much of a focal point for ARPN in the past.
However, the policy issues surrounding uranium – many of which have a familiar ring to followers of ARPN – increasingly warrant a closer look. Last year, the Department of Interior included uranium in its list of 35 metals and minerals deemed critical from a U.S. national security and economic perspective – for good reason.
As Congressmen Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rob Bishop (R -Utah, Mark Meadows, R-N.C.) outlined in an op-ed for Fox News earlier this month, “U.S. utilities rely on foreign sources for 98 percent of the uranium they use to fuel the nuclear power plants that provide 20 percent of our country’s electricity” – a fact that not only poses a significant national security risk, but harms domestic industry.
“Uranium [fuels] our nuclear Navy. But instead of buying from the domestic uranium mining companies that once thrived in the West, utilities are enriching adversarial countries like Russia and China.
Following their carefully orchestrated geopolitical plan, Russia and its allies flood the global market with uranium from state-owned companies, making it impossible for America and other free-market economies to compete.
Meanwhile, quietly and gradually, China has been buying up previously free-market uranium mines to control global supply.
Rather than keep good jobs here at home and depend on our own resources to power the electric grid, the U.S. jeopardizes national security by relying on nations that have demonstrated their will to undermine our defense infrastructure and our economy, and to do us harm.
As a result, America’s uranium mining industry is dying. U.S. uranium mining companies produced 721,000 pounds of uranium last year – only enough to fuel one nuclear reactor.”
The Congressmen, writing on behalf of the bipartisan Western Congressional Caucus, called on U.S. President Trump heed a recommendation to impose an import “quota that reserves a relatively small 25 percent of the U.S. market for the domestic uranium mining industry.”
The recommendation was initially put forth by two domestic uranium mining companies that in January 2018 had requested a Commerce Department investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, with a presidential decision on the findings of the DoC investigation expected by July 15 of this year.
Taking many by surprise, however, while agreeing with the Commerce Department that the United States’ reliance on foreign uranium “raise significant concerns,” President Trump last week announced that he will not impose quotas on uranium imports. This comes a somewhat unusual move for a President who has invoked national security concerns when calling for restricting foreign metal imports elsewhere.
The President instead announced the formation of a “U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group” to conduct a “fuller analysis of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain.”
In his memorandum announcing his decision on July 12, the President states:
“I agree with the Secretary that the United States 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.”
Over the next 90 days, the 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 nonproliferation goals.”