Report: It’s Time to Empower US Nuclear to Avoid Russia and China Dominance

  • US corporations were dissatisfied with foreign companies undercutting US counterparts.
  • A separate part of the report contains recommendations that will help restore US leadership in the nuclear field.
  • The report also expresses a need to appoint a high-ranking official in the US presidential administration responsible for coordinating and implementing nuclear exports.

The United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group published its finding pertaining to the need to restore the competitive advantage to the US.  The group was established by US President Donald Trump. The precedent for the group’s creation was set in January 2018 when two US uranium mining companies filed an appeal with the Department of Commerce for the consideration of uranium supplies from Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan.

NuScale’s design for a Small Modular Reactor.

According to Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy, uranium supplied from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan covered approximately 40% of the US consumption, while the US’s own uranium production accounted for less than 5% of their needs. The companies suggested that the Ministry take advantage of article 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, intended to protect industries important to national security from imports, and set quotas for American uranium on the US market to at least a quarter of market needs.

Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act gives the executive branch authority to impose or increase tariffs on imports deemed threatening to national security. The current use of this law has highlighted its severe weaknesses in the areas of both process and oversight.

US corporations were dissatisfied with foreign companies undercutting US counterparts.

The main recommendations issued by the group: 

  • Direct purchase of uranium from US mining companies to form the US national reserve. This is the easiest way to resolve the contradiction between the desire of US uranium companies to expand their sales and the reluctance of operating organizations to spend additional money on this. The state will buy uranium and send it to the warehouse until future times. In addition to natural uranium, enriched uranium can also be purchased for the state reserve, and in fairly large quantities (the report States the volume of OUP for 24 high-capacity LWRs).
  • Reducing the regulatory burden on the nuclear industry. The text of this recommendation hides a sensation (although, on the other hand, it was well predictable). In addition to proposals to improve the quality of competition in the US energy markets and simplify the work of mining companies, the recommendation contains two sub – items related to Russia (and one of them-also China). The first of them refers to the agreement to suspend the anti-dumping investigation (SPAR). Russia and the United States concluded it in 1992 to cancel the US barrage of duties on uranium and uranium products from Russia. The amended agreement is still in force today, and a quota of 20% for Russian uranium products has been adopted in accordance with its terms.

Regarding the quota amount, the group supported “considerations for further reducing the quota for Russian imports” without specifying specific values. The second sub-item may have aroused the greatest interest, since it explicitly refers to the ban on deliveries from TVEL. The report refers to the project for the development and implementation of “TVs-Kvadrat,” an informal response of Rosatom to the actions of “Westinghouse” to penetrate the fuel market with VVER reactors.

The TVEL Fuel Company is a Russian nuclear fuel cycle company headquartered in Moscow. It works mainly in uranium mining and the production of nuclear fuel. TVEL belongs to the Atomenergoprom holding company.  “Although this route (the delivery of” TVs-Kvadrat “to the US nuclear power plant) is not currently being implemented, TVEL may develop such a replacement fuel in the future,” the report of the working group says. In this regard, the working group proposed “quickly” through presidential decrees to impose restrictions or completely prohibit the import of nuclear fuel manufactured in Russia or China.

TVEL Russian Company Emblem.
  • The restoration of leadership.
  • A separate part of the report contains recommendations that will help restore US leadership in the nuclear field.
  • Finance R & d to create a tolerant (ATF) fuel.
  • Finance R & d for the production of 20% enriched uranium (HALEU) and complete the HALEU production demonstration program.
  •  Finance the implementation of advanced water treatment methods in uranium mines.
  • Support the creation of the national center for innovative reactor. technologies and the construction of the VTR fast research reactor.
  • Finance R & d and demonstration programs for advanced reactors.
  • Demonstrate small and micro-reactor technologies for Federal sites.
  • Support of Exports.

There will be major changes in the structure of the nuclear Park in the future. Small light-water reactors, advanced non-water reactors, and a range of micro-reactors will be added to high-power units with light-water reactors. They will provide electricity and heat to consumers in remote areas, produce high-temperature heat for industry, and dispose of nuclear energy waste.

In order to support the development of small reactors, the report recommends using existing power procurement opportunities for federal facilities, especially those of the Department of Defense.

It contains proposals of a political nature to open new markets and financial support from US financial organizations for US companies whose competitors have the support of their States. That entails tighter regulations as well.

American companies should return to the market of research reactors, as well as a proposal to support the development of fuel for reactors of “foreign origin” (read – actively fight for fuel markets for VVER, and in the future for fuel markets for Chinese export reactors).

The creation of a nuclear Industrial Base in the United States in the manner of how it is done for the defense industry.

The report also expresses a need to appoint a high-ranking official in the US presidential administration responsible for coordinating and implementing nuclear exports.

They are great recommendations to make the US more self efficient in the nuclear sector and stop empowering Russia and China. It is important to rely on domestic product and services. The utilization of the defense sector especially is a very good finding.

The full report available here.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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