ICYMI: Barrasso Op-Ed: We Must End American Dependence on Russian Uranium

March 21, 2022

By: U.S. Senator John Barrasso

March 20, 2022

Casper Star Tribune

After two weeks of war and a bipartisan push in Congress, President Biden finally banned imports of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal. The idea was simple: an energy superpower like America should not fund Putin’s killing machine.

This is a good start, but it is not enough. As this editorial page argued last weekend, we must address America’s dependence on Russian uranium. If Joe Biden is serious about defunding Putin’s invasion, then he must also ban imports of Russian uranium. 

The United States has vast uranium resources, including here in Wyoming. Currently, more than 90% of the uranium we use in America is imported. 

Rather than letting our uranium sit in the ground, we ought to use it. 

I’ve been in the trenches of this fight for years. In 2020, I successfully fought to limit the amount of Russian uranium authorized to be imported into the United States. 

Now we need to take the next step. That’s why I’ve introduced a bill in Congress to completely end our dependence on Russia for nuclear fuel. 

Banning Russian uranium will help re-establish the United States as the global leader in nuclear energy. 

My bill presents a unique opportunity to revitalize our domestic supply chain. 

A ban on Russian uranium would spur production here at home, strengthen our national security, and cut off another critical source of Putin’s energy revenue. 

Nuclear power is the largest source of American carbon-free energy. It is also key to our national security. 

In 2020, I secured funding to establish a U.S. strategic uranium reserve. Two years later, the Biden administration has been slow to act. The president needs to take immediate action on this long overdue program. This reserve will increase demand for Wyoming uranium and ensure America will always have the fuel it needs to power our nuclear reactors. 

A stable nuclear fuel supply chain is also critical for the high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) needed to power advanced nuclear reactors, like TerraPower’s future Natrium reactor in Kemmerer. There are currently only two sources of HALEU – Russia and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

America needs to be able to enrich HALEU ourselves. Until we can, the U.S. Department of Energy needs to make its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium available to advanced reactor developers. I am currently finalizing legislation to provide the U.S. Department of Energy with the direction and resources necessary to take this two-pronged approach. 

The nuclear fuel supply chain should begin with American uranium and end with American fuel. We cannot leave America’s energy security and national security reliant on fuel supplies from Vladimir Putin or our other enemies. 

Mr. Barrasso of Wyoming is ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.