US opens national security probe into uranium imports

US uranium production dropped from 49 percent in 1987 to 5 percent today

US opens national security probe into uranium imports

Dünya Bülteni/Haber Merkezi

The Commerce Department on Wednesday opened an investigation into whether imports of uranium, which fuels nuclear power plants and submarines, pose a risk against national security.

“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption [in 1987] to five percent [today],” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

"A thorough, fair, and transparent review" will be conducted to determine whether uranium imports threaten to impair national security, he added.

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.

If tariffs are introduced, costs would increase for nuclear power plants, which has been shutting down or trying to break even in stiff competition against cheap natural gas and the rise of renewables in recent years.

It will also be the latest in the Donald Trump administration's new trade policies focusing on raising import tariffs on a various number of goods.

The administration announced in March imposing tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports, and began implementing tariffs worth of $34 billion on 1,300 Chinese goods two weeks ago.

Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia and Russia exported most of the uranium used in the U.S.'s power plants in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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

The companies have laid off over half their workforce in the past two years and operate at roughly 9 - 13 percent of capacity, according to the statement.

The Commerce Department said it consulted with industry stakeholders, members of Congress, the Pentagon, Energy Department, and others before launching the investigation.

Last Mod: 18 Temmuz 2018, 20:11
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