The Trump administration’s hard look at uranium imports is already rattling nuclear utilities’ fuel-purchasing decisions. The Commerce Department said July 18 it would launch an investigation, at the behest of uranium mining companies Energy Fuels Inc. and UR-Energy Inc., into whether U.S. overreliance on imported uranium threatens national security.
Although it is still too early to measure the Commerce probe’s specific impacts, John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, confirmed that some utilities “may be choosing to defer their contracting until there is more certainty with the outcome of the Department of Commerce’s review.”
To make nuclear fuel, uranium is extracted from rock and enriched, before being made into pellets that are loaded into assemblies of nuclear fuel rods.
The demand is there. Most utilities’ uranium needs are locked down for the next couple of years, but generally not beyond 2020 or 2021, said Treva Klingbiel, president of uranium analyst TradeTech LLC in Englewood, Colo.
If the Commerce Department delivers a quota mandating that 25 percent of U.S. uranium must be domestically produced, utilities might be barred from taking foreign shipments for which they’ve already contracted. In that case, they might have to argue that uncontrollable events have voided their purchase agreements.
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