US Senate Chairman presses nuclear regulators on uranium exports by US firm owned by Russia

The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, John Barrasso, sent a letter today to the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman, Kristine Svinicki, informing them that he is expanding a 2010 investigation into the Obama administration’s approval of the sale of Uranium One’s uranium recovery facilities to the Russian state-owned firm Atomredmetzoloto, or ARMZ.

Barrasso asked Perry and Svinicki to explain how a Russian-owned mining company was able to ship American uranium to Canada, and through the northern neighbour to Europe and Asia, using a third-party export license. His allegations are based on a series of stories published by The Hill stating that the NRC approved a permit so that Uranium One could use RSB Logistic Services’ export license to move uranium outside American borders after it was purchased by the ARMZ subsidiary of the Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom in 2010.

The Senator said such new revelations collide with assurances he was given years ago by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the firm’s uranium would stay inside the United States. “On March 21, 2011, former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko responded to my letter on behalf of then-President Obama stating: ‘At this time, neither Uranium One Inc. nor ARMZ holds a specific NRC export license. In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One, Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use in reactor fuel’,” he wrote in Monday’s letter.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has oversight jurisdiction over the NRC. Now Barrasso wants both agencies to submit all documents related to communications between the Obama administration and Russia regarding the sale of the U.S uranium firm in Wyoming -his home state-, along with any correspondence related to lawful international agreements between the countries on civilian uses of uranium for nuclear power.

The senator will use a hearing on Wednesday on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's budget and priorities to discuss his letter.

According to The Hill, Republicans have long raised questions about the Obama administration’s approval of Russia’s Uranium One purchase, both because of national security concerns and revelations that Bill Clinton collected personal speech money and charitable donations from parties interested in the sale while the issue was pending at his wife Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

However, the newspaper also states that Clinton and Obama officials have countered those worries by saying there were no national security concerns cited by any of the 10 federal agencies that approved the deal and that none of Uranium One’s uranium was exported.