The House Energy and Commerce Committee has advanced a bill to the chamber’s floor that, with certain exceptions, would ban the import of low-enriched uranium from Russia into the United States. Introduced in February by the E&C Committee’s chair, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act (H.R. 1042) was approved in a (slightly) bipartisan 29–21 vote on May 24.
The legislation would start banning Russian uranium 90 days after its enactment but would also allow the Department of Energy to issue waivers should the DOE determine (1) that there is no alternate source of low-enriched uranium available to keep a U.S. nuclear reactor in operation or (2) that importing Russian uranium is in the national interest.
Even with the waivers, however, the bill caps the amount of Russian uranium imported per year at 578,877 kg in 2023, at 476,536 kg in 2024, at 470,376 kg in 2025, at 464,183 kg in 2026, and at 459,083 kg in 2027. The waivers terminate January 1, 2028.
Words from the sponsor: “H.R. 1042 sends a strong signal to industry and provides certainty that Russian fuel won’t be able to flood the American market any time soon,” said Rodgers just prior to the committee’s vote. “In fact, fuel processing plants in the United States already have licensed capacity today that they need to replace the supply of Russian low-enriched uranium. The problem is that no processing facility will invest the billions of dollars necessary to achieve that licensed capacity unless they have the certainty of long-term contracts for their products to cover their investments. And the order from their fuel customers will not be made if there remains uncertainty that Russia will be able to flood the market like it has in so many other examples with its massive production capacity. H.R. 1042 puts America’s private nuclear market to work. This is a mature market. We do not need the federal government taking control of fuel supplies before we ban Russian fuel. That’s just a recipe for delay and market volatility.”
Meanwhile: On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance the Nuclear Fuel Security Act (S. 452), introduced in February by Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), and Jim Risch (R., Idaho).
S. 452 calls for the DOE to “expeditiously increase domestic production” of both low-enriched uranium and high-assay low-enriched uranium, aka HALEU, to “ensure the availability of domestically produced, converted, enriched, deconverted, and reduced uranium,” and to address “gaps and deficiencies” in that front end of the nuclear fuel cycle by “partnering with countries that are allies or partners of the United States if domestic options are not practicable.”
In addition, the bill incorporates Barrasso and Manchin’s Reduce Russian Uranium Imports Act (S. 763), the Senate’s version of Rodger’s H.R. 1042.