US Ban On Russian Uranium Could Backfire

(MENAFN- Asia Times) US President Joe Biden has now signed into law HR 1042, the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, banning the import of uranium products from Russia The ban goes into effect 90 days after it was signed into law and prohibits any import of unirradiated low-enriched uranium (LEU) produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian entity.

Waivers may be granted to allow the import of limited amounts of LEU, under certain circumstances, until January 1, 2028. The new legislation permits the Department of Energy (DOE) to issue waivers authorizing the entire volume of Russian uranium imports allowed under export limits set in an earlier anti-dumping agreement between the Department of Commerce and Russia which expires in 2027.

There are predictions that waivers will be needed and granted.“No one will dare” to enforce the law without granting waivers, says Alexey Anpilogov, a Russian political scientist and expert in nuclear energy –“because American nuclear reactors produce cheap electricity. And the green transition that was declared in the United States also implies the preservation of nuclear energy as a carbon-neutral sector of electricity production.”

A long history

US concern over Russian enriched uranium has a long history. In an effort to prevent an influx of cheap Russian enrichment services into the US after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US nuclear energy industry instigated an anti-dumping petition in 1991. This resulted in the adoption in 1992 of the Russian Suspension Agreement (RSA) between the US Department of Commerce and Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy (now Rosatom). The agreement introduced formal quotas on the import of Russian enriched uranium. It was amended in 2008 and 2020.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, Russia has been supplying about 24% of enriched uranium used to fuel the US fleet of 94 commercial reactors, with 12% coming from Germany and 11% from the UK. US production accounts for 27%.

The US DOE says Russia has roughly 44% of the world's uranium enrichment capacity and supplies approximately 35% of US imports for nuclear fuel.

The United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) ceased production in 2001. Following bankruptcy in 2014, USEC re-emerged as Centrus Energy Corp. While Centrus is developing new centrifuge technologies with the aim of restoring US domestic uranium enrichment capability, it primarily acts as a broker of enriched uranium, sourcing foreign supplies for US and international customers.

According to Centrus's 2023 annual report to the US Securities & Exchange Commission, Russia's Tenex is Centrus's largest supplier, followed by French company Orano. Centrus has commitments with Tenex for the supply of Russian enrichment services to 2028.

Centrus has made clear that it will apply for waivers from the secretary of energy and other applicable government agencies to request permission to continue supplying LEU to its customers.“It is uncertain whether any waiver would be granted and, if granted, whether any waiver would be granted in a timely manner,” it noted.“The Company anticipates having adequate liquidity to support its business operations for at least the next 12 months.”


Asia Times

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