US House passes bill banning uranium imports from Russia

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a ban on imports of Russian uranium as lawmakers seek to add pressure on Moscow for its war on Ukraine, though the measure has waivers in case of supply concerns for domestic reactors.

The bill must pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden before becoming law. It is uncertain whether there will be enough time in the Senate schedule for it to be voted on this year.

The bill, passed by voice vote in the House after the chamber suspended usual voting rules on the measure, would ban the imports 90 days after enactment, subject to the waivers.

The House bill contains waivers allowing the import of low-enriched uranium from Russia if the U.S. energy secretary determines there is no alternative source available for operation of a nuclear reactor or a U.S. nuclear energy company, or if the shipments are in the national interest.

“The risks of continuing this dependence on Russia for our nuclear fuels are simply too great,” said Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers before the vote. “It’s weakening America’s nuclear fuel infrastructure, which has declined significantly because of reliance on these cheap fuels.” 

The United States banned imports of Russia oil after the invasion of Ukraine last year and imposed a price cap with other Western countries on sea-borne exports of its crude and oil products, but it has not banned imports of its uranium.

U.S. nuclear power plants imported about 12% of their uranium from Russia in 2022, compared to 27% from Canada and 25% from Kazakhstan, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States was the source of about 5% of uranium used domestically that year, the EIA said.

Allowed imports of Russian uranium under the waiver would be gradually reduced to 459 metric tons in 2027 from about 476.5 tons in 2024.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Stephen Coates and Sandra Maler)