Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday he will suspend the Energy Department’s practice of selling excess uranium for the rest of the fiscal year, after a key Republican blocked the nomination of an agency nominee.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso has said the sales hurt the domestic uranium mining industry, particularly in his home state of Wyoming.
To protest the policy, Barrasso had placed a hold on a key Energy Department nominee who would lead the agency’s environmental office. That has prevented the Senate from confirming Anne White, President Trump’s nominee to be assistant secretary for environmental management.
“I hope we can extend ending the barter beyond this fiscal year by working together to fully fund our environmental management cleanup through the appropriations process,” Perry told Barrasso Tuesday at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
Mike Danylak, a spokesman for Barrasso, told the Washington Examiner that the senator has not decided whether to lift the hold on White’s nomination or if he seeking an extension of a suspension of uranium transfers beyond this fiscal year.
Perry said he’s open to extending the suspension.
Barrasso has frequently highlighted the decline of the domestic uranium mining industry, with employment for uranium producers falling more than 50 percent. Uranium is the fuel used for nuclear power.
The U.S. produces less than 5 percent of its uranium. More than half of U.S.-based uranium production is in Wyoming.
Barrasso blames the decline on “unfair trade practices from government-owned producers in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” but he also cites the Energy Department’s practice of selling excess uranium on the open market.
Source: Washington Examiner