Chris White Tech Reporter
July 12, 2019 2:00 PM ET
Republican lawmakers are urging President Donald Trump to impose steep quotas on uranium imported from Russia as critics say the U.S. is too dependent on foreign countries for fuel powering America’s electric grid.
Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Matt Gaetz of Florida were among a handful Republicans asking Trump to set aside 25 percent of the U.S. uranium market for domestic production. Their request comes as the president considers whether to place quotas on imported uranium products.
“Our country’s growing dependence on foreign, state-owned sources of uranium is a threat to the national security and taking action to secure the domestic free market supply of this critical mineral is a national security imperative,” they said in a letter Thursday to the president.
Trump is facing a Saturday deadline to decide whether to impose quotas under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which gives the president authority to probe the national-security impact of imports and take action if necessary. The Commerce Department submitted the results of such an investigation in April to the White House.
The probe was prompted by a petition filed by two U.S. uranium mining companies, Ur-Energy Inc and Energy Fuels Inc, complaining that subsidized foreign competitors have caused them to cut capacity and lay off employees. (RELATED: Trump May Go Nuclear On Tariffs And Tax Uranium Imports)
A representative with the Western Caucus, which crafted and distributed the letter, says lawmakers are keeping tabs on the process.
“Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs have long sounded the alarm on the dangers of America’s overreliance on foreign uranium,” Congressional Western Caucus spokesman Ben Goldey said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Western Caucus is monitoring the Section 232 investigation closely, and we look forward to the results.”
Civilian nuclear power plants and U.S. Navy nuclear submarines rely on U.S. uranium, the production of which has plummeted since the 1980s, meaning more of it is coming from abroad. Trump, for his part, is targeting China’s uranium exports as he continues throttles the communist country’s trade practices.
The president is especially focusing on uranium (U-235) reactor components and machinery to separate isotopes. The U.S. gets a very small percentage of its uranium from China, so the tariffs in this area probably won’t have much effect.
What could upset the U.S. nuclear industry is retaliation from China, which is planning to build at least 100 nuclear plants through 2030 to reduce its reliance on coal power. China is largely dependent on foreign imports of uranium and equipment to build nuclear plants.