Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Kessler calling on the department to extend the Russian Suspension Agreement (RSA), as recommended by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG).
In the letter, the senators called for the department to reduce imports of Russian uranium, protect America’s energy and national security interests, and to limit Russia’s ability to manipulate America’s uranium markets.
Read the full letter here and below.
Dear Assistant Secretary Kessler:
We support the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) efforts to extend the Russian Suspension Agreement (RSA), as recommended by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG). This will protect our nation’s nuclear fuel supply chain from aggressive and illegal trade practices of nuclear state-owned enterprises of foreign adversaries. Specifically, we encourage DOC to reduce imports of Russian uranium below the existing twenty percent limit over the long-term. We will support efforts to codify those limits in law.
Last year, President Trump created the NFWG to recommend actions to strengthen our nation’s nuclear fuel supply chain. On April 23, the Department of Energy published its report titled “Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage: A Strategy to Assure U.S. National Security.” The report was the culmination of the working group’s efforts.
The report unequivocally states Russia has “weaponized” its energy supplies. It documents Russia’s decades-long approach to target America’s nuclear sector. The report concludes that Russian efforts to dominate the U.S. nuclear fuel cycle pose a serious national security threat. The strategy identifies 18 steps to revitalize our nation’s nuclear industry.
It is imperative the Commerce Department successfully implement one of the report’s key recommendations: to extend the RSA to protect against future uranium dumping in the U.S. market. DOC is currently negotiating an extension of the RSA with the Russian Federation. As you lead DOC’s efforts to negotiate this agreement, we request you account for near-term nuclear fuel supply, accommodate the operational requirements of America’s nuclear reactors and provide appropriate long-term protection for the domestic supply chain for nuclear fuel.
Additionally, your negotiations should be based on accurate uranium demand projections. The World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) “Reference” scenario has consistently overestimated domestic uranium demand. We applaud you for correctly relying on WNA’s lower scenario data and advise you continue this practice in extending the agreement.
When you successfully complete your negotiations in a timely manner, we will support the codification of DOC’s agreement. Should the negotiations prove unsuccessful, we will pursue all paths to statutorily limit Russia’s ability to manipulate our uranium markets.
The Russian Federation should know that Congress will not stand by while they unfairly manipulate the uranium market for their geostrategic purposes. We will not stand by while our nuclear industry is subjected to illegal energy market campaigns.
We look forward to hearing from you.
John Barrasso, M.D.
Joe Manchin III
Lindsey O. Graham
On March 4, 2020, EPW held a hearing to discuss the administration’s priorities for America’s nuclear industry.
On March 3, 2020, Barrasso pressed Department of Energy Secretary Brouillette to provide immediate relief for uranium producers and release the overdue Nuclear Fuel Working Group report.
On Sept. 30, 2019, Barrasso and a group of Republican Senators sent a letter to National Economic Council Director and NFWG Co-Chairman Larry Kudlow, calling for NFWG to take bold action and immediate to help America’s uranium producers. Read the letter here.
On July 13, 2019, President Trump established the NFWG following his final decision regarding the Section 232 investigation. The NFWG was tasked with giving recommendations to the president on to reinvigorate domestic nuclear fuel production.