The administration of Donald Trump plans to initiate an investigation into foreign uranium suppliers to find out whether imports of this metal harms US national security, Bloomberg reports citing three informed sources. The timing of the investigation is not yet clear, but it can lead to the introduction of US protective measures, as happened after a similar investigation with steel and aluminium tariffs.
In January, the US Department of Commerce approached US uranium producers Energy Fuels Inc. and Ur-Energy Inc. with a request to investigate this matter in accordance with the section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Trump used the same provision of the law to slap protective duties on imports of steel and aluminum.
US producers of uranium, which occupy about 5% of the domestic market, asked the government to protect them from competition from state companies in countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, the agency said. They argue that it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete with state-subsidized companies from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Uranium producers from the US want US companies to account for about 25% of the domestic market.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in June 2018 informed the Senate Finance Committee that he would make a decision on uranium “very shortly.” “It’s complicated by some prior agreements that exist but we are sorting through it and we will come to a conclusion very, very quickly,” Ross said then.
The main exporter countries of uranium to the United States are Canada and Kazakhstan. 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. According to the government agency, in 2016 almost 90% of the uranium used at the US nuclear power plants was supplied from abroad.