May 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden signs Russian uranium ban

Canisters filled with enriched uranium at the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico on July 11, 2023. Photo: Mark Felix/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday signed a bipartisan bill banning imports of Russian enriched uranium, with waivers for companies to continue bringing it in until 2028.

Why it matters: The U.S. spends an estimated $1 billion per year on nuclear fuel from Russia, so the new law cuts off a key source of revenue as Putin's forces escalate their war on Ukraine and drive military spending to levels not seen since the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s.

  • Congress moved to ban Russian oil, gas and coal soon after the full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, but Russia supplies about 20% of its enriched uranium for U.S. nuclear fuel.
  • The legislation could shake up the industry's supply and initiating nuclear fuel supply programs will be crucial for the Biden administration to avoid industry disruptions and obstacles for the next generation of reactors, Axios' Nick Sobczyk reports.

Zoom in: The measure, dubbed the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, unlocks $2.7 billion in new funding for nuclear fuel supply programs at the Department of Energy.

  • It effectively bans uranium imports from Russia starting 90 days after it's enacted, but allows reactor operators to continue importing until 2028 if they don't have another viable supplier.
  • The Senate unanimously passed the bill last month.

What they're saying: "This new law reestablishes America's leadership in the nuclear sector," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. "It will help secure our energy sector for generations to come."

  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), a sponsor of the bill, said on the Senate floor last week that Russia's "choke hold" on U.S. uranium supply was coming to an end. "Putin's war machine has now lost one of its cash cows," he added.

Flashback: U.S. bans Russian oil, gas and coal

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