U.S. President Joe Biden’s ban on American imports of Russian oil and other energy products, announced on Tuesday, does not include a ban on imports of uranium for nuclear power plants, a source familiar with the matter said.
The U.S. power industry relies on Russia and its allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for roughly half of the uranium powering its nuclear power plants. The industry has been lobbying the White House to continue to allow uranium imports from Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
There is no U.S. uranium production or processing, though several companies have said they would like to resume domestic production in Texas or Wyoming if nuclear power producers sign long-term supply contracts.
A White House document released after Biden announced the oil ban and summarizing the Russian sanctions did not mention uranium, confirming reporting from Reuters.
Russia’s uranium production is controlled by Rosatom, a state-run company formed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007. The company is an important source of revenue for Moscow, and exempting U.S. uranium imports is likely to fuel continued questions about how American businesses are financially supporting Russia’s economy.
The National Energy Institute (NEI), a trade group of U.S. nuclear power generators, said it supports development of an American uranium industry.
“U.S. utilities contract with a worldwide network of companies and countries for their fuel requirements to mitigate the risks of potential disruption,” said Nima Ashkeboussi, NEI’s senior director of fuel and radiation safety.
Duke Energy Corp and Constellation Energy Corp, two of the largest U.S. power generators, did not respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Congress has been paying more attention to Russia’s prowess as a global producer of uranium and other metals.
“We need to look at alternative sources (for uranium), including in the United States,” Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, told Reuters on the sidelines of the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston this week.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, whose department overseas parts of the American nuclear industry, is slated to address the conference on Wednesday.
(By Trevor Hunnicutt and Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio)