Today, the Commerce Department initiated an  investigation under Section 232 of the of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 of imports of Uranium into the United States. Specifically, the investigation will examine whether the present quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and uranium product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security. The investigation will focus on the entire uranium sector—from mining, through enrichment, defense and industrial consumption. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stated that U.S. production of uranium used in military electric power applications has dropped from 49% (in 1987) to 5% today.

The decision to commence the investigation results from a petition filed earlier this year by two U.S. uranium mining companies (UR-Energy and Energy Fuels), as well as Commerce Department discussions with industry stakeholders, Congress, the Departments of Defense and Energy and other partners.  Other key factors that appear to have driven the Commerce Department to launch the investigation include the following—

  • Uranium powers ninety-nine (99) U.S. commercial nuclear reactors that produce 20% of the electricity for the U.S. electric grid.
  • Uranium is a required component for the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is used to power the Navy’s nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
  • Three (3) U.S. companies with uranium mining operations have been idled in recent years.
  • Two (2) U.S. petitioners (accounting for over half of all uranium mined in the U.S.) have had to lay off over half of their workforce in the last two years and operate at a fraction of their capacity.
  • U.S. mines that have closed would take several years to reopen under current environmental regulations.
  • As stated in the U.S. companies’ petition, imports of uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as Canada and Australia, are allegedly harming the U.S. uranium industry.

The petition requests that a quota be imposed on imports of uranium that would reserve 25% of the U.S. market for domestically mined uranium. The petition also calls for the establishment of a Buy America policy for U.S. government agencies that use uranium.

In terms of a timeline, the Commerce Department must complete the Section 232 investigation within 270 days. President Trump would then have ninety (90) days to decide whether to impose import restrictions on uranium.

If you have any questions or need further information as to the new Section 232 investigation, the additional tariffs imposed under Section 232 (aluminum and steel) or Section 301 (certain Chinese-origin goods), or other international trade-related issues, please contact Miller Proctor Law PLLC. (Melissa Proctor – melissa@millerproctorlaw.com; Peggy Chaplin Louie – peggy@millerproctorlaw.com)