New U.S. Law Bans Imports Of Russian Uranium For Nuclear Fuel

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP


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On May 13, 2024, President Biden signed into law a bill that bans imports of Russian uranium for use as nuclear fuel in the United States.
United States International Law
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Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2024) – On May 13, 2024, President Biden signed into law a bill that bans imports of Russian uranium for use as nuclear fuel in the United States. The new law, titled the "Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act," H.R. 1042, 118th Cong., § 2 (2024), aims to cut off a significant source of revenue for Russia and to reduce U.S. dependence on Russian nuclear fuel. The ban unlocks a significant increase in federal funding to grow the country's uranium industry. As a result of the ban, some companies will need to apply for waivers for utilities, which they must do by January 1, 2028.

The legislation, which received bipartisan support in Congress, prohibits the importation of uranium products from Russia, including low-enriched uranium used in commercial nuclear reactors. The ban takes effect immediately and will remain in place until the U.S. president certifies to Congress that Russia has ceased its aggression against Ukraine and has fulfilled its obligations under international nuclear agreements. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in response to the bill, "Our nation's clean energy will not rely on Russian imports."

Prior to the enactment of this law, Russia supplied approximately 40% of uranium conversion used in U.S. nuclear power plants; it is one of the world's largest producers of uranium enrichers, with about 46% of global capacity. In response to Russia's growing threat of enriched uranium monopolization, the U.S. put limit thresholds on the import of enriched uranium and negotiated an agreement called "The Russian Suspension Agreement." Russia is scheduled to export to U.S. utilities and fuel brokers the equivalent of 15% supply in 2028-2040. Additionally, in 2020, Congress – to help advance the U.S. economy's growth of nuclear production - enacted the Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 16281 (citing USEC Privatization Act, S. 755, 104th Cong., 3112(A) (1995)), which lays out the elements and appropriations to be used, subject to applicable limitations. The ban is expected to have a significant impact on the U.S. nuclear energy industry, which will need to secure alternative sources of uranium to maintain operations.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to work closely with the nuclear industry to ensure a smooth transition and minimize potential disruptions to the U.S. energy supply. The government is also exploring options to increase domestic uranium production and establish new partnerships with allied nations to diversify the country's nuclear fuel supply chain. The ban on Russian uranium imports is part of a broader effort by the U.S. to impose economic sanctions on Russia in response to its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. The move is expected to put additional pressure on the Russian economy and further isolate the country from the international community.

U.S. sanctions and related authorizations are subject to frequent changes. Lewis Brisbois' experienced attorneys are helping clients navigate rapidly developing, sanction-related legal and business risks. For more information on these developments, contact the authors of this alert.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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