The Department of Commerce has announced the initiation of a Section 232 investigation into whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security. The decision was in response to a petition filed by two U.S. uranium mining companies and consultations with industry stakeholders, members of Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and other interested parties. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis informing him of the initiation of the investigation.
According to Commerce, these were the key considerations for initiating the investigation:
- Uranium powers 99 U.S. commercial nuclear reactors, which produce 20 percent of the electricity for the U.S. electric grid, a key element to U.S. critical infrastructure.
- Uranium is a required component of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is used to power the U.S. Navy’s fleet of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
- U.S. uranium production had been 49 percent of U.S. requirements in 1987. Today, U.S. uranium production has dropped to only five percent of U.S. requirements.
- Three U.S. companies with mining operations have been idled in recent years.
- The two U.S. companies that requested the Section 232 investigation account for over half of all uranium mined in the United States, have laid off over half their workforce over the last two years, and now operate at reduced capacity.
- Shuttered mines would take years to reopen under current environmental permitting regulations.
Background: On January 17, 2018, two U.S. uranium mining companies, UR-Energy and Energy Fuels, filed a petition requesting that Commerce initiate a Section 232 investigation into imports of uranium ore and products.