Energy Fuels announces US Department of Commerce investigating effects of uranium imports

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the East Room of the White House

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the East Room of the White House

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday initiated a so-called Section 232 investigation into the national security implications of uranium imports.

Canada is not the target, although all countries are potentially subject to the investigation, said a spokeswoman for two usa uranium firms that petitioned the us government in January to take action to help a sector that has been hemorrhaging jobs.

The investigation will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption, according to the department.

He pointed to a drop in U.S. production of uranium, which is used to power 99 commercial reactors, the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, and in the country's nuclear weapons arsenal.

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

The provision allows for duties without a vote by Congress if imports are deemed a national-security threat, and was used this year to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The Trump administration said Wednesday it is starting an investigation into uranium imports, potentially opening another front in an expansive trade war that has shaken alliances with countries around the world.

"If the issue in question is the overreliance of the United States on uranium supplied by state-controlled enterprises from countries not aligned with American policy interests, this clearly does not apply to Canada or Cameco", said CEO Tim Gitzel in a statement.

The companies have blamed the drop in USA domestic production on foreign nations' subsidies for uranium production.

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Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in USA power generation, according to the Energy Department.

Tariff fears may be warranted The big complaint from the two US companies has to do with "state-subsidized" uranium imports.

Nuclear power provides 20percent of the U.S.' electricity, a fraction that is set to wane in the coming years: Since 2013, six of the nation's nuclear reactors have shut down permanently and 11 others are scheduled to be retired by 2025. "Foreign policies of other nations should not be permitted to jeopardize this crucial USA industry", the statement said.

The head of Cameco Inc., Canada's largest uranium producer, said it's too early to say what impact the investigation will have, but that Canada and the company are aligned with US interests.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States has only one operating uranium mill left, Utah's White Mesa Mill.

Canada is the world's second-largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan, with 23 per cent of global production in 2016, said Natural Resources Canada.

"A robust domestic uranium mining industry is not only critical for national security, it's essential for Wyoming's economy", Enzi said.

The petition wants a quota set to limit imports of uranium into the U.S., effectively reserving 25% of the United States market for US uranium production. According to the government agency, in 2016 nearly 90% of the uranium used at the U.S. nuclear power plants was supplied from overseas.

In a joint statement yesterday, Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels noted the Secretary of Commerce now has 270 days to conduct the investigation and submit a report to the US President containing his findings and proposed remedy, if any.

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