Amid rising tensions between the United States and Russia, U.S. power companies are lobbying the Biden administration not to sanction uranium imports from Russia, arguing that it is crucial to keeping domestic electricity cheap, Reuters reported.
Fifty percent of U.S. nuclear power plants are fueled with uranium from Russia and its allies, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which translated into approximately 10.3 million kilograms in 2020, producing 20% of the electricity consumed by Americans.
Uranium is essential for the production of electricity in nuclear power plants. It is used as fuel inside the reactors to boil water and generate steam to drive the turbines.
If uranium is included in the wave of sanctions against Russia, importing the precious metallic chemical element would be threatened, and consequently, the low cost of electricity for U.S. consumers.
While uranium imports have so far remained exempt from White House sanctions on Russia, the U.S. nuclear industry’s trade association, the National Energy Institute (NEI), including Duke Energy Corp and Exelon Corp, are lobbying for the Biden administration to continue the exemption.
Although Texas and Wyoming have large reserves of uranium, the U.S. does not currently process it, so it is integrally dependent on imports, preferably Russian, as it is the lowest cost uranium.
The NEI has stated that it supports local production and supply from other countries beyond Russia to ensure a good supply.
Nima Ashkeboussi, NEI’s senior director of fuel and radiation safety, said, “While Russia is a significant global supplier of commercial nuclear fuel, U.S. utilities contract with a worldwide network of companies and countries for their fuel requirements to mitigate the risks of potential disruption.”
Democrats concurred in 2020 with former President Donald Trump’s proposal to boost U.S. nuclear development by creating a uranium reserve, for which he had proposed $150 million in the budget.
According to Reuters, while the Biden administration claims to be working to keep U.S. energy costs down, an unnamed White House official said that all inquiries from the energy industry are being heard “… as we take measures to hold Russia accountable.”