U.S., Russia finalize amendment to uranium import agreement

October 7, 2020, 3:01PMNuclear News

The U.S. Department of Commerce and Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, have signed a final amendment to the Agreement Suspending the Antidumping Investigation on Uranium from the Russian Federation. The amendment extends the 1992 pact through 2040 and reduces U.S. reliance on uranium from Russia during that time period, the DOC announced October 6.

Previously, the agreement was set to expire on December 31 of this year. According to the DOC, the document’s expiration “would have resulted in unchecked imports of Russian uranium, potentially decimating the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States.”

The final amendment is unchanged from the draft version, released for public comment on September 11. (For more specifics on the amendment, see our story on the draft here.)

What they’re saying: “The net effect of this will be to strengthen the U.S. uranium producing industry and U.S. uranium refining, but to do it in a very gradual way that does not have any material impact on electric utility rates for those utilities that are using uranium,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Energy policy, Ross noted, has several important components, including national security. “There’s obviously a national security risk to the degree that our electric power industry depends upon Russia as the source of its raw material,” he said. “There’s an even more direct national security risk as our navy depends on foreign sources such as Russia for the nuclear submarines that we have going about in the ocean. And so the way to deal with all that is to have a healthier domestic industry.”

To a query regarding the benefit to Russia from the amendment, Ross responded, “What they got out of the deal was assurance of a stable relationship for many years to come. The alternative to the suspension agreement would have been for us to bring a 232 proceeding and potentially impose tariffs, quotas, or other remedial measures.”

(Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows any department, agency head, or any “interested party” to request the DOC to initiate an investigation to determine the effect of specific imports on U.S. national security.)

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