Mr Trump ordered his Cabinet secretaries to study the matter, with an eye toward government grants for production equipment, as well as tariffs, quotas or other import restrictions against China and other non-market foreign adversaries.
The order states that the county’s “undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
The US imports more than half of its annual consumption of 31 of the 35 listed critical minerals, and has no domestic production at all for 14 them for which it is completely dependent on imports.
Earlier this year, the Nuclear Fuel Working Group report, requested by Mr Trump, said the US must take “immediate and bold action” to strengthen the uranium industry and restore the viability of the entire front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including establishing a uranium reserve that will provide assurance of availability.
Earlier this year, Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s office of nuclear energy, said the country’s ability to produce domestic nuclear fuel was “on the verge of a collapse”.
She said the nation’s only uranium conversion plant – the Honeywell facility in Illinois – was idle due to poor market conditions, and the country’s inability to compete with foreign state-owned enterprises, most notably from China and Russia, was threatening energy security and weakening Washington’s ability to influence the peaceful uses of nuclear around the world.