US Senate passes Russian uranium import ban

The US Senate has passed a bill banning the import of low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is produced in Russia or by a Russian entity. The bill will now go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

The bill also prohibits the import of unirradiated LEU “that has been swapped for the banned uranium or otherwise obtained in a manner designed to circumvent the ban’s restrictions”, according to summary information from the US Senate.

However, the Department of Energy (DOE) can waive the bill if it determines that “no alternative viable source of low-enriched uranium is available to sustain the continued operation of a nuclear reactor or a U.S. nuclear energy company” or if imports are deemed in the national interest. A limited amount of uranium can be imported under the waiver.

The ban will come into effect 90 days after the date of the enactment and will terminate in 2040.

Commenting on the bill, Wyoming’s Republican senator John Barraso said: “I have fought for years to end America’s reliance on Russian nuclear fuel. Our efforts have finally paid off with passage of our bill to ban these imports once and for all.

“Wyoming has the uranium to replace Russian imports, and we are ready to use it. Our bipartisan legislation will help defund Russia’s war machine, revive American uranium production, and jumpstart investments in America’s nuclear fuel supply chain,” he added.

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West Virginia’s Democrat senator Joe Manchin said: “I am proud to have worked on this legislation with Ranking Member Barrasso to put an end to Russian uranium imports, which simultaneously unlocks $2.72bn to ramp up domestic uranium fuel production.”

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, western nations have sought to reduce reliance on Russian nuclear fuel, but this is the first time formal legislation has been implemented. US nuclear company Westinghouse has been at the centre of the US’ drive to move countries away from dependence on Russian nuclear resources. In April, Westinghouse and Ukrainian state-owned utility Energoatom started construction of the first AP1000 reactor in Western Ukraine, where existing reactors are Soviet-era VVER (water-water energetic reactor) models.


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