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US President signs uranium import prohibition

14 May 2024

The act prohibiting the importation into the USA of unirradiated, low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian entity has been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

President Biden pictured signing legislation earlier this year. The President has now signed into law HR 1042. (Image: The White House/Adam Schultz)

The president signed HR 1042, the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, on 13 May – two weeks after the bill was passed unanimously by the US Senate. The legislation bans the import of Russian-produced unirradiated LEU as well as the import of unirradiated LEU that has been swapped for banned uranium.

The prohibition on imports of LEU comes into effect 90 days after the date of the enactment of the bill, and will last until the end of 2040. Waivers may be granted to allow the import of limited amounts of LEU, under certain circumstances, until 1 January 2028.

“Today, President Biden signed into law a historic series of actions that will strengthen our nation’s energy and economic security by reducing – and ultimately eliminating – our reliance on Russia for civilian nuclear power,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

“This new law re-establishes America’s leadership in the nuclear sector. It will help secure our energy sector for generations to come. And – building off the unprecedented USD2.72 billion in federal funding that Congress recently appropriated at the President’s request – it will jumpstart new enrichment capacity in the United States and send a clear message to industry that we are committed to long-term growth in our nuclear sector.”

He added that the law also delivers on multilateral goals, including last year’s announcement by the USA with Canada, France, Japan and the UK of plans to collectively invest USD4.2 billion to expand their enrichment and conversion capacity. “I am proud to say that with these funds from Congress, we have well-exceeded that pledge and are working with industry to realise this ambition,” he added.

HR 1042 complements the Nuclear Fuel Security Act, legislation aimed at revitalising the US nuclear fuel industry, which was included as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act for fiscal 2024, which was signed into law in March.

According to a December 2023 US House Report on HR 1042, the USA currently imports more than 20% of its enriched uranium from Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom and its subsidiary Tenex.

In response to the measure, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was reported by the Russian Tass news agency to have told a news briefing “it’s hard for the Americans to compete with us on the international market”, adding that the ban was “nothing more than unfair competition” and not critical for the Russian nuclear industry: “Our nuclear industry is one of the most advanced in the world. We will continue to develop this industry.”

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