The US government is working on a uranium strategy

Against a background of growing tension with Russia, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking to strengthen American energy independence. To this end, the US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm has called for more investment and a new budget for 2023 for the US nuclear fleet.

In the context of the conflict in Ukraine and the energy embargoes in Russia, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking to implement a “comprehensive uranium strategy”. On 5 May 2022, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm defended her 2023 budget request during a hearing before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

At the hearing, Jennifer M. Granholm said: “We want to make sure, for example, that we are able to supply medium-enriched uranium (HALEU – between 5 and 20 per cent), as well as low-enriched uranium to our civilian nuclear fleet. If we distance ourselves from Russia, we want to be sure that we have the capacity to keep our nuclear fleet afloat.

This strategy, along with the request for a new budget, should allow for new investments to increase American independence and energy security while providing the country with clean energy “made in the USA”. This is in addition to additional purchases for the Strategic Uranium Reserve, for which Congress had already appropriated $75 million in 2020. Further details of this strategy, which will also cover the establishment of a complete US supply chain for HALEU fuel, are likely to be announced later in June.

An energy threat

If Russian oil and gas are at the heart of the problem of European countries’ sanctions against Russia, enriched uranium represents a major issue for the United States. Unlike Russian oil imports, which account for only 8% of the country’s purchases, 46% of US uranium imports come from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Moscow is threatening the US with a halt to all exports in response to sanctions against it. In response to this threat, Senator Joe Manchin, the committee’s chairman, stressed the need for the US to strengthen its energy security by eliminating any dependence on resources from “hostile” nations. He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had used Russian energy and natural resources more generally to pressure European democracies in the past and would do so again on a global scale.

To counter this threat, in addition to the ban on imports of Russian oil, petroleum products, LNG and coal, the DOE has established a team led by Dr Kathryn Huff, a specialist in the field of nuclear engineering and recently appointed Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. The team is tasked with developing a comprehensive uranium strategy through a cross-agency process. This strategy will ultimately enhance American energy security and independence and provide affordable and reliable energy to all Americans.

Published onn 23 May 2022

By Maximilien Struys

Copyright photo : Nicholas Kamm / AFP