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American Shipper

Commerce launches review of uranium imports

Investigation examining national security impact could lead to additional tariffs.

   The Commerce Department has launched a Section 232 investigation into whether imports of uranium ore and product imports into the United States threaten to impair national security, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Wednesday.
   The investigation could lead to additional tariffs or other import restrictions imposed pursuant to the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
   Uranium necessary for military and electric power produced in the United States has dropped from serving 49 percent to serving 5 percent of U.S. consumption between 1987 and today, Commerce said.
   The investigation will cover the entire uranium sector from the mining industry through enrichment, defense and industrial consumption, Commerce said.
   Two U.S. uranium mining companies, UR-Energy and Energy Fuels, accounting for more than half of uranium mined in the United States, on Jan. 17 filed a petition requesting Commerce initiate a Section 232 investigation into imports of uranium ore and uranium products.
   The decision to launch the investigation comes after consultation with industry stakeholders, congressional lawmakers, the Defense and Energy departments and “other administration partners,” Commerce said.
   Ross on Wednesday morning sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis informing him of the investigation and noting that Commerce staff will consult with DoD staff regarding “any methodological and policy questions that may arise during the investigation, and that the investigation report will include information provided by the DoD on national defense requirements for uranium.”
   The Commerce announcement noted that uranium is a required component in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is used to power Navy nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers and that three U.S. companies with uranium mining operations have been idled in recent years.
   The two U.S. petitioners have laid off more than half of their workforce over the last two years and operate at roughly 9 percent and 13 percent of capacity, respectively, Commerce said, adding that shuttered mines would take years to reopen under current environmental permitting regulations.
   This is the fourth Section 232 investigation undertaken by the Trump administration, after probes into steel imports and aluminum imports resulted in global tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, and after the administration started a 232 investigation into automotive imports in May.
   Commerce will hold a hearing Thursday as part of its Section 232 review of automotive imports.

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