Canadian uranium major Cameco does not expect the Trump administration’s investigation into uranium imports to have an immediate impact on its shipments into the US, but the company’s president and CEO Tim Gitzel said he is following developments “very closely”.
He affirmed that Cameco, which is the only listed uranium mining company among the world’s top five producers, will be providing input to the US Department of Commerce (DoC), which announced the investigation on Wednesday.
The probe, which could take up to 270 days to complete, will focus on “whether the quantity and circumstances of uranium ore and product imports in the US threaten to impair national security”, the DoC said.
The US uranium industry wants the government to shield it from imports. Uranium miners Energy Fuels and UR-Energy said that imports of uranium from State-owned and State-subsidised enterprises in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan fulfilled about one-third of US uranium demand, while purchases of US uranium by owners of US nuclear reactors dropped by 46%.
“Increasing levels of State-subsidised nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace US uranium production. If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to US national and energy security will be incalculable,” the Denver, Colorado-based uranium mining companies stated in a joint media release.
In 2017, US uranium production was at near historic lows and production is likely to be even lower this year.
“If the issue in question is the overreliance of the United States on uranium supplied by State-controlled enterprises from countries not aligned with American policy interests, this clearly does not apply to Canada or Cameco,” Gitzel said.
About 30% of Cameco’s total sales by volume last year were sent to utilities in the US. The country has 99 of the world’s 447 operable reactors.
The DoC will compile a report for consideration by US President Donald Trump, who will then have up to 90 days to decide whether to concur with the DoC findings and what actions, if any, will be taken in response.
“It’s too early to speculate on what effect this investigation could have on Cameco or our Canadian and US operations,” Gitzel said. “We will need to see what the investigation finds, if any trade action is recommended, and what specific remedies might be pursued before the potential impact, positive or negative, can be determined.”
The investigation will cover the entire uranium sector, from the mining industry to enrichment, defence and industrial consumption.