Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy recently petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce to require U.S. nuclear plant operators to buy 25 percent of their uranium annually from domestic producers, citing national security concerns around overreliance on imported uranium. In turn, the U.S. Department of Commerce sent its recommendations regarding the petition to the Trump administration. Those recommendations have not been made public, but the administration has 90 days from April 14 to act on the recommendations and to take any action to curb imports.

Pillsbury International Trade partner Nancy Fischer spoke at the April 11 World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference on the subject and noted that under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the administration could issue any trade remedy it chooses. It could require utilities to purchase 25 percent of their uranium from U.S. producers, impose import tariffs, establish quotas on imports from any country, or some combination of all three.

If the administration imposes a 25 percent mandate, it “would have a significant adverse effect on the U.S. nuclear industry,” potentially boosting costs by up to $800 million annually.

“The president has been one of the biggest supporters of the U.S. nuclear industry,” Fischer said. “At some point there is a tension between seeking to support and revitalize the domestic industry and on the other, imposing such a quota.”