The United States Department of Commerce has launched an investigation to determine if uranium imports threaten national security, raising questions about whether Canadian producers will be exempted from any potential trade restrictions.
The investigation, which opens a new front in U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade campaign, “will canvass the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense, and industrial consumption,” the commerce department said.
“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 per cent of our consumption to five per cent,” said commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. U.S. uranium production fell to 2.4 million pounds in 2017, down 61 per cent over the last decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
U.S. uranium producers Energy Fuels Inc. and Ur-Energy Inc. filed a petition in January requesting an investigation under section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act – the same provision used to justify tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum imports from countries including Canada, Mexico and Europe.
The U.S. firms have requested that 25 per cent of the U.S. uranium market — roughly 12 million pounds — be protected for American miners, saying they have struggled to compete with state-owned “subsidized” firms in countries including Russia and Kazakhstan.