Two years after former President Donald Trump announced that he would decline to take any further action on uranium imports despite a finding that uranium was being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States (see Update of July 15, 2019), the Department of Commerce has finally released its full public report.
Despite then-President Trump’s decision to forego any Section 232 import restrictions or tariffs on uranium and to, instead, establish a Nuclear Fuel Working Group, the report’s findings are nevertheless worthy to note. The report determined that:
- Domestic uranium is required to satisfy the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requirements “for maintaining effective military capabilities, including nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of 11 nuclear powered aircraft carriers and 70 nuclear powered submarines, source material for nuclear weapons, depleted uranium for ammunition, and other functions.” The report notes that uranium used for military purposes is generally required to be domestically produced.
- Uranium is essential to maintaining U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, “specifically the nation’s 98 reactors for nuclear power generation to support the Nation’s commercial power grid.”
- Domestic uranium production and processing “depends on an economically viable, competitive U.S. commercial uranium industry.”
- Since 1946, U.S. legislation governing the uranium production and nuclear power generation industries “has consistently made explicit written reference to these industries’ national security functions.”
The report provides details as to the level of imports of uranium which may adversely impact the U.S. uranium industry, including a determination that nearly 94 percent of uranium used for civilian nuclear energy generation is imported, as well as concluding that high imports have caused “all elements of the U.S. uranium sector to shut down production capacity, struggle to maintain financial viability, reduce workforce, cut R&D, and slash capital expenditures. Excessive imports have dropped U.S. uranium mining production to some of the lowest levels seen since uranium mining began in the late 1940s.”
While President Trump declined to restrict imports, the report supported such action by noting that, “[b]ased on the current and projected state of the U.S. uranium industry, the Department [of Commerce] has concluded that the U.S. uranium industry is unable to satisfy existing or future national security needs or respond to a national security emergency requiring a large increase in domestic uranium production.” The report recommended a “modest reduction” of uranium imports via a targeted or global quota over a five-year period at a level sufficient to enable U.S. producers to supply 25 percent of U.S. utilities’ uranium needs.