United States investigating uranium imports as Canada holds its breath

U.S. to review uranium imports on national security grounds

Trump Administration Investigating National Security Risks of Uranium Imports

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday initiated a so-called Section 232 investigation into the national security implications of uranium imports.

The department said the decision to investigate uranium imports follows a petition filed by two usa uranium mining companies in January - UR-Energy and Energy Fuels.

The investigation will address all aspects of the uranium industry, including mining, enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption.

"Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent", Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize USA security. "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".

"If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to US national and energy security would be incalculable", they said.

"Targeting Canada's uranium industry would be absurd and would suggest a deliberate escalation by the Trump administration - for its own political purposes - of a trade war with America's closest ally", he said in a statement.

The United States relies on imports for 93 percent of its uranium. The two US mines have the capacity to produce up to 3 million pounds a year.

Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy produce more than half of USA uranium.

According to these companies, "the combined uranium imports from three geopolitically and commercially linked countries - Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan - fulfilled almost 40% of US requirements" in 2016, and China has increased their own nuclear power production in recent years as well, threatening USA markets.

Uranium powers 99 commercial nuclear reactors that produce 20 percent of electricity in the country's grid, in addition to powering the Navy's nuclear fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers. Compounding the problem was a global supply glut that prompted Kazakhstan, the world's biggest producer, to cut back past year. Each of these countries accounts for about a quarter of the total supply, followed by Australia, Russia and Uzbekistan, according to the US Energy Information Administration. USA reactors burn roughly 50 million pounds of uranium each year, with Canada and Kazakhstan each supplying roughly 25 per cent of that amount.

"When it was aluminum you could question whether it can be justified as a national security risk, but with uranium, I think it's much easier", said Tal.

Congress would likely have an easier time supporting restrictions on uranium imports - given their use as nuclear power plant fuel - than it did backing measures on steel and aluminum, said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets. But they say they have laid off roughly half of their combined employees and are operating at just 9 percent and 13.5 percent of capacity, respectively.

The investigation comes a day before the department holds a hearing on whether the imports of automobiles and automotive parts threaten US national security.

Nearly 90 per cent of uranium delivered to USA reactors was from foreign nations in 2016, according to the government agency.

They also want USA federal utilities and agencies to buy US uranium in accordance with President Donald Trump's Buy American policy.

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