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Biden signs bill banning imports of Russian uranium for nuclear fuel

WorldBiden signs bill banning imports of Russian uranium for nuclear fuel

Ready-to-ship canisters filled with enriched uranium at the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility near Eunice, New Mexico, US, on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing the US and Europe to search for alternative sources of enriched uranium to power their reactors. 

Mark Felix | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The United States will ban imported Russian uranium starting on Aug. 11, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday.

Russia controls nearly half of the world’s supply of enriched uranium, according to the Department of Energy, and about a quarter of the U.S.’s enriched uranium — which is used to power the country’s 94 nuclear reactors— comes from Russia.

The ban, which U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law on Monday, also unlocks $2.72 billion in federal funding to expand the country’s uranium industry.

Exchange-traded funds that track uranium prices rose slightly following the announcement, with the Global X Uranium ETF and the Sprott Uranium Miners ETF trading around 1% higher Tuesday.

Because the ban’s implementation could hurt supply for the U.S.’s reactors, the law allows some waivers for utilities that would be forced to shut down reactors. All waivers, however, will end on or before Jan. 1, 2028.

“Our nation’s clean energy future will not rely on Russian imports,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “We are making investments to build out a secure nuclear fuel supply chain here in the United States.”

While the U.S. continues to import more than 20% of its enriched uranium from Russia’s state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom, it has sanctioned more than 35 of the company’s subsidiaries since February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said this latest move marks an end to U.S. dependence on Russia for the commodity.

“Banning imports of Russian uranium will jumpstart America’s nuclear fuel industry, further defund Russia’s war machine, and help revive American uranium production for decades to come,” Barrasso said in a statement on Monday after the bill’s enactment.

In response to Biden’s signing of the ban, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov said in a post on Telegram that it was another “failed” attempt by the Biden administration in “inflicting strategic economic defeat on us.”

“The current attack – not only on Russia, but also on the world market for uranium fuel for nuclear power plants – is leading to new shocks in international economic relations,” he said. “The delicate balance between exporters and importers of uranium products is being disrupted.”

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