Uranium & Fuel

US / House Approves Legislation To Ban Imports Of Russian Uranium

By David Dalton
12 December 2023

Moscow accounts for more than 20% of nuclear fuels for American reactors

House Approves Legislation To Ban Imports Of Russian Uranium

The US House voted on Monday (12 December) to approve legislation that would bar the importation of low-enriched Russian uranium.

The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act would make it illegal to import low-enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear fuel, 90 days after the bill becomes law.

It would also allow for a waiver if “no alternative viable source of low-enriched uranium is available to sustain the continued operation of a nuclear reactor or a United States nuclear energy company”.

Russia provided almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel the US’s fleet of 93 nuclear plants, making it the number one foreign supplier to the US last year, according to the US Department of Energy.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, Russia has been supplying about 24% of enriched uranium with 12% from Germany and 11% from the UK. The US itself supplies 27%.

Russia is also the only commercial source of special highly enriched reactor fuel known as Haleu that is needed for a new breed of advanced nuclear reactors that are under development.

Providers in the US, with federal support, are in the process of producing Haleu. Centrus Energy recently delivered a first batch of Haleu fuel to the US Department of Energy (DOE), finalising the first phase of a domestic manufacturing demonstration process.

Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and John Barrasso of Wyoming, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have both said they believe the measure will now clear the Senate, where it has support but limited time for passage this year.

Ahead of the vote, Washington Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers and New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone spoke in favour of the bill.

“One of the most urgent security threats America faces right now is our dangerous reliance on Russia’s supply of nuclear fuels for our nuclear fleet,” Rodgers said, adding that the war in Ukraine “intensified” the issue.

Bill Ensures US Will ‘Lead The Way’

Rodgers said last year alone, the US nuclear industry paid over $800m (€740m) to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom and its fuel subsidiaries.

On social media platform X, she said: “My bill, the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, just PASSED the People’s House to strengthen our national security by cutting our reliance on Russian-sourced fuels and ensuring America will lead the way with reliable, zero-carbon nuclear energy.”

Pallone said: “The combination of banning imports of Russian uranium and investing in domestic capacity will provide private industry with both the certainty and the incentives it needs to invest in the nuclear fuel supply chain.”

At the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai last week, leaders from the US, Canada, France, Japan and the UK – a group of G7 nations informally known as the Sapporo 5 – announced plans to mobilise $4.2bn (€3.9bn) in government-led investments to develop a secure, reliable global nuclear energy supply chain.

The investments will increase uranium enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years and establish a resilient global uranium supply market free from Russian influence.

Russia controls almost 50% of global enrichment capacity and has worked successfully to undermine the US nuclear supply chain over many years by dumping cheap enriched uranium products on world markets, Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said recently.

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