US President Donald Trump said he would not impose quotas on imports of uranium, backing away from one of many trade confrontations the administration has threatened as it tries to protect American industry, The New York Times reported.
Trump said that he did not agree with the commerce secretary’s findings that foreign uranium poses a threat to national security. It was a rare dissent for a president who has determined that foreign metals, autos and auto parts are a threat to America’s national security and should be restricted.
After several months of deliberation, the commerce secretary determined that the high volume of uranium imports do pose a threat to national security. Trump rejected that finding.
“Although I agree that the secretary’s findings raise significant concerns regarding the impact of uranium imports on the national security with respect to domestic mining, I find that a fuller analysis of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain is necessary at this time,” the president said in a statement.
The potential for trade barriers on foreign uranium stemmed from an investigation into whether imported uranium ore and related products, which are essential components for the United States’ nuclear arsenal, submarines, aircraft carriers and power plants, were a security threat.
Trump’s decision means that the United States will not impose the quotas that the domestic uranium industry had requested, which would have limited imports to guarantee that American miners supply one-quarter of the uranium used domestically. Instead, the president said he would establish a working group to develop recommendations in the next 90 days for reviving and expanding domestic nuclear fuel production.
The United States is the world’s largest consumer of uranium. But it imported 93% of the uranium it used in 2017, with the vast majority coming from Canada (25%), Kazakhstan (24%), Australia (20%), Russia (14%) and Uzbekistan (4%).
“We are down to where we are effectively producing nothing when it comes to newly mined uranium,” said Mark Chalmers, the president of Energy Fuels. “That should shock people.”
“We’re basically chucking our car keys at the Chinese and the Russians and saying go ahead and produce our uranium for us,” he noted.