U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his department has started an investigation into the possibility that the reduced production of uranium ore in the United States may be negatively impacting the military and energy sectors’ strength and soundness.
Local uranium production, which is crucial for military and electric power, has plunged to 5 percent of consumption from 49 percent in 1987, prompting the Bureau of Industry and Security to conduct an investigation as to whether uranium imports “threaten[s] to impair national security,” the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
Ross said uranium is important to the country’s military and energy sectors, as it is an essential component of the nuclear arsenal and is used to fuel the U.S. Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. It also powers 99 commercial nuclear reactors that account for a fifth of the electricity in the U.S. electric grid.
The decision to launch the probe came after UR-Energy and Energy Fuels filed a petition on Jan. 17 requesting the Commerce Department to initiate a Section 232 investigation into uranium ore product imports.
The two mining companies have reportedly lost half of their workforce over the last two years and are currently operating at drastically reduced capacities.
Ross said his department conducted consultations with Congress, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and industry stakeholders prior to the launch of the Section 232 investigation.