US ban on Russian energy imports stops short at uranium

The US will continue to import uranium from Russia to power the country’s nuclear plants despite President Joe Biden’s ban on Russian oil and other energy products, sources close to the matter have revealed.

Biden called for the embargo yesterday amid Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine in Eastern Europe. The oil ban came on the same day as big corporations, such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds, announced they would temporarily halt operations in Russia as part of a wide-reaching campaign of sanctions from the West.

However, the US energy industry relies on Russia and its allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for roughly half of the uranium powering its nuclear power plants. The industry has been lobbying the White House to continue to allow uranium imports.

A White House document released after the oil ban announcement and summarising the Russian sanctions did not mention uranium. The exemption of uranium on the ban was later confirmed by Reuters reporting.

Russia’s uranium production is controlled by Rosatom, a state-run company formed by President Vladimir Putin in 2007. Meanwhile, there is currently no domestic uranium production or processing in the US, though several companies have said they would like to resume production in Texas or Wyoming if nuclear power producers sign long-term supply contracts.

“We need to look at alternative [uranium] sources, including in the United States,” Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, told Reuters on the sidelines of the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston this week.