On July 18, 2018, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that he has launched an investigation into whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security. The investigation will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption.
According to the announcement, the decision to launch the investigation follows a petition filed on January 17, 2018 by two US uranium mining companies, and comes after consultation with industry stakeholders, members of Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other administration partners. Secretary Ross sent a letter on July 18 to Secretary of Defense Mattis, informing him of the initiation of the investigation.
According to the announcement, the key considerations prompting the investigation were:
- Uranium powers 99 US commercial nuclear reactors that produce 20 percent of the electricity for the US electric grid, a key element to US critical infrastructure.
- Uranium is a required component of our nuclear arsenal and is used to power the Navy’s nuclear fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.
- US uranium production had been 49 percent of US requirements in 1987. Today, US uranium production has dropped to only five percent of US requirements.
- Three US companies with mining operations have been idled in recent years.
- Two US petitioners, accounting for over half of all uranium mined in the US, have laid off over half their workforce over the last two years and operate at roughly nine percent and 13 percent of capacity respectively.
- Shuttered mines would take years to reopen under current environmental permitting regulations.