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May 5, 2022
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What will happen to America without Russian uranium?

About 47% of the uranium used in the US is imported from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

Russia is considering a ban on uranium exports to the United States as a response to Washington’s embargo on the purchase of Russian energy resources, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

The United States imposed an embargo on direct purchases of Russian energy resources – oil, petroleum products, coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – on March 8. At the same time, Washington prohibited American companies from direct investment in Russian energy exports. According to Alexander Novak, these restrictions did not greatly affect Russia, since domestic companies supplied about 3% of export oil and 7% of export oil products to the United States.

Earlier, US Republican senators proposed refusing to purchase Russian uranium, saying that they would be able to mine it in a “greener way” in Wyoming.

The US is the world’s largest producer of nuclear electricity. Of the 440 power units in the world, 93 are located in the United States.

55 American nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 95.5 GW generate 19.7% of electricity in the United States. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA)by the end of 2020, about 90% of the uranium used in the United States is imported. Of these, 47% – for supplies from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Uranium deposits in the USA

The uranium market in the US is controlled by two large groups of suppliers. Canada and Australia supply 34%. Russia and Kazakhstan – 38.6%. Rosatom owns controlling stakes in the state corporation Kazatomprom. Kazakh uranium is enriched at Russian plants.

The only commercial uranium enrichment facility in the United States is located in New Mexico and is owned by Urenko.

With the ban on imports of Russian uranium, this company cannot promptly increase the production and enrichment of nuclear fuel. The plant’s capacity is 4.7 million SWU/year (separation units), while the US requirement is estimated at 12 million EPP/year.

Officially explored uranium reserves in America are only 1% of the world’s.

On March 17, 2022, a group of Republican senators introduced billsuggesting a ban on the import of uranium from Russia into the country in connection with the events in Ukraine.

This is stated in a statement by the initiator of the bill, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, known as an active opponent of Nord Stream 2. The bill was supported by Republicans Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Roger Marshall (Kansas) and Kevin Kramer (North Dakota).

On the news, uranium futures rallied to $56.35/lb, just below their highest since accidents at the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima – 1 in March 2011. Senator Barrasso said that “the time has come to permanently remove Russian energy resources from the American market.” “A ban on uranium imports from Russia would further weaken the Russian war machine, help revive US uranium production, and bolster our national security,” the statement said. statement senator. US National Mining Association (NMA) supported bill.

Previously, as reported Reutersa number of American energy companies (Duke Energy Corp, Exelon Corp), as well as the US Atomic Energy Institute asked the White House not to impose sanctions against Russian uranium supplies.

“American nuclear power is dependent on cheap Russian uranium”, one source told Reuters. US nuclear industry lobbyists have used their leverage to convince the White House not to cancel imports of uranium from Russia.

Historically, uranium was enriched in the United States using the inefficient and expensive gas diffusion technology, while in the USSR it was enriched using centrifuges that required 50 times less electricity. Therefore, immediately after the end of the Cold War, the Americans switched to Russian enriched uranium, which cost them much less.

Corporation now Westinghouse fills fuel assemblies for reactors with either European uranium purchased from a British-German-Dutch concern URENKOor Russian, supplied by Techsnabexport.

Washington seriously lags behind world leaders in most areas: in uranium mining, in the construction of nuclear reactors, and in the management of spent nuclear fuel. For the transition to full self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel, the States will have to spend a lot of time and money.

Russian uranium averaged about $25/lb in 2020, which is cheaper than Kazakh uranium ($33/lb), Canadian uranium ($35/lb) or Australian uranium ($39/lb). The price per pound from the American Canyon Mine, located near the sacred site of the Havasupai Red Butte tribe, is $50.

Many American Indian tribes oppose the mining and processing of uranium on their lands. The uranium industry has had a devastating impact on Navajo lands, leaving over 500 abandoned uranium mines that still pollute the soil and water. For decades, the Havasupai tribe has opposed the Canyon mine on their ancestral lands and has called on the US Department of Energy to remove the mine from any federal uranium mining program. Many tribes support a permanent ban on new uranium mines on federal lands around the Grand Canyon. In southeastern Utah, Utah Mountain Utah activists are pushing for the closure of the only operating uranium enrichment plant in the United States, located near Bears Ears National Monument.

The chances of passing a bill to ban Russian uranium imports fluctuate. The bill was opposed by the liberal media. Newspaper Washington Post conducted its own investigation of the technical justification for Senator John Barrasso’s bill, which showed that “the figures that Barasso gives are probably exaggerated, and his calculations do not make much sense” (his math does not make much sense).

The futility of resuscitation of the American uranium industry is emphasized by the fact that last year the US Congress allocated $75 million to finance the development of American uranium reserves, but since then not a cent of this money has been spent.

Uranus

The United States, meanwhile, pushed through Germany’s consent to a ban on uranium imports from Russia, Politico reports. “The German Permanent Representative to the EU announced the new position of Berlin, saying that he not only agrees with oil sanctions, but also actively supports a phase-out of oil, and not just a price cap, as well as a ban on Russian uranium,” a source told the publication.

A sharp jump in uranium prices is beneficial to the world’s leading suppliers of nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants, among which the American corporation is in the lead Westinghouse. Having achieved Europe’s refusal to import Russian uranium, the Americans will sell them exorbitantly expensive fuel for the remaining nuclear power plants in the European Union.

If, nevertheless, the United States prohibits the import of Russian uranium, then this will turn out to be even more negative costs for the United States than those currently observed in the United States due to Washington’s embargo on Russian oil, gas and coal, said Alexander Frolov, deputy director general of the Russian National Energy Institute. : “This may lead to the closure of a number of power units at nuclear power plants in the United States and the need to look for other suppliers in the uranium market. But Washington will definitely not be able to quickly find them. At the same time, Russia will find new buyers of uranium, since nuclear power plants and power units continue to be built in many countries of the world, which will create additional demand in the market.”

If Russia itself stops exporting uranium to the United States and the European Union, it will form a new, more reliable market on more favorable terms, in which India, China and Iran can become participants.

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