WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it was starting an investigation into uranium imports, potentially opening another front in an expansive trade war that has shaken alliances with countries around the world.
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said the department would investigate whether imported uranium ore and related products — key ingredients in America’s nuclear arsenal, and used in power production and nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers — threatened national security.
Uranium produced domestically now fills only 5 percent of America’s needs, Mr. Ross said, down from half in 1987. The uranium inquiry is the latest of several trade-related steps the Trump administration has taken with an eye toward imposing stiff tariffs on imports.
Levies have already been placed on washing machines, solar-power products, steel and aluminum from overseas, and on an array of Chinese goods. The administration is also considering whether to impose tariffs on imported cars and car parts.
The investigation announced on Wednesday was requested by two American uranium mining companies, Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. The firms say low-priced imports, especially those from competitors supported by foreign government subsidies, had caused them to slash jobs in recent years. Nuclear power producers have responded by warning that sharp restrictions on uranium imports could lead to the closure of plants.
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