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26 Aug, 2022 16:52

US won’t be able to replace Russian uranium – official

Washington is considering a Russian nuclear fuel ban since Moscow is "no longer a trustworthy source", officials say
US won’t be able to replace Russian uranium – official

The US will not be able to replace Russian uranium in the event of an import ban, Assistant Secretary of Energy Kathryn Huff has warned, saying Washington must develop enrichment capabilities domestically. 

"Worldwide, there's not enough capacity to replace that gap from trusted sources," Huff told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, adding that it was the US’s responsibility to “encourage and incentivize that enrichment and conversion capability” on American soil.

Huff told the Examiner that US reliance on Russian-sourced uranium posed unique energy security and national security risks, and noted that Russia still provides about 20% of the low enriched uranium at existing US reactors.

“We have the largest nuclear fleet in the world, and we currently do not have the capability to provide fuel for all of our reactors,” she said, claiming that Russia is “no longer a trustworthy source of our fuel, and we need to find alternatives here and build up that supply chain.”

Russia reportedly accounted for 16.5% of the uranium imported into the US in 2020 and 23% of the enriched uranium needed to power the country’s commercial nuclear reactors. Currently there is nowhere else to turn to fill the gap if uranium imports are banned, Huff said. 

Legislation before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would indeed ban Russian uranium imports, just as Congress previously banned imports of Russian fossil fuels following the launch of Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine in February. 

Huff, who has a PhD in nuclear engineering, said a "tiger team" at the energy department was currently strategizing how to expand the domestic supply chain.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has also previously called Washington's reliance on imports from Moscow a "vulnerability" for economic and national security.

The US maintains the capacity to mine uranium, but relies heavily on Russia for enrichment. Kick-starting the domestic uranium industry is not a simple process, the department said previously, given that the country has only one commercial enrichment facility remaining — a plant run by British-German-Dutch consortium Urenco in New Mexico.

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