- The Trump administration is starting an investigation into uranium imports to the US.
- The investigation will be conducted using the same method that allowed Trump to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
- Uranium from US producers made up only 11% of the deliveries to US nuclear power reactors in 2016, less than the amount that came from each Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, and Russia.
The Trump administration is kicking off an investigation that could result in tariffs on imported uranium, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
In a statement, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the US will launch an investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act into the national security risks of imported uranium. That type of investigation was also the method the Trump administration used to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 per cent of our consumption to five per cent,” Ross said. “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.”
US uranium miners Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy requested the investigation, saying the US’s reliance on foreign uranium poses a threat to national security. Paul Goranson, COO at Energy Fuels, told Bloomberg that the reliance on uranium from state-owned companies that “obviously have different global strategic objectives than we do” should prompt action.
Both companies have been publicly agitating for a Section 232 investigation since filing a request in January. In a March editorial for The Hill, Energy Fuels CEO Mark Chalmers and Ur-Energy CEO Jeffrey Klenda warned that without trade relief, the US uranium mining industry could disappear.
“State-owned entities in antagonistic governments are targeting our energy industry. We must ensure that a domestic nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium mining, survives,” the CEOs wrote. “If we cede control of a critical fuel to Russia and its allies, the threat to our security is incalculable.”
The companies are not directly asking for tariffs, but instead for a quota that would allow domestic uranium producers to hold 25% of the US market and compel government agencies to buy from domestic suppliers.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, or EIA, only 11% of the uranium delivered to US nuclear power reactors came from domestic producers in 2016. Meanwhile, 89% of the uranium used in US reactors came from foreign suppliers, with 25% of the total from Canada, 24% from Kazakhstan, 20% from Australia, and 14% from Russia.
Following the announcement, Energy Fuels’ and Ur-Energy’s stocks were up 8% and 10% respectively as of 10:55 am ET.
A tariff on uranium imports would be the lastest protectionist measure from the Trump administration. In addition to the steel and aluminium tariffs, the Trump administration has hit $US34 billion worth of Chinese imports to the US with tariffs. The administration is also set to slap tariffs on another $US16 billion worth of Chinese goods.
The Commerce Department is also investigating tariffs on auto imports and car parts coming into the US. A move to restrict auto imports would likely push the US into a trade war with major allies like the European Union and Canada.
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