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DOC Initiates Investigation on Uranium Imports for Possible Additional Tariffs

The United States has launched a probe under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to assess whether imports of uranium are harming U.S. defence readiness. The initiation of this review will not have an immediate impact on U.S. importers or foreign suppliers but could eventually lead to tariffs in the same way that the steel and aluminium investigations resulted in additional tariffs on products from all countries except those granted waivers by the U.S. government.

The DOC’s Bureau of Industry and Security has launched a probe under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to assess whether imports of uranium are harming U.S. defence readiness. This investigation is authorised under the same statute that was used to establish additional tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from all countries other than those granted waivers. 

On 17 January, two U.S. uranium mining companies, UR-Energy and Energy Fuels, filed a petition requesting that the DOC initiate a Section 232 investigation into imports of uranium ore and products. The firms argue that uranium imports from mainland China, Russia, Kazakhstan and other suppliers are a threat to continued U.S. production, which could be critical for U.S. nuclear-powered military applications such as submarines and aircraft carrier ships, as well as nuclear weapons. The DOC announcement includes a letter notifying U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that “U.S. uranium production had been 49 percent of U.S. requirements in 1987” but production levels have “dropped to only five percent of U.S. requirements.” The DOC indicates that the investigation will canvass the entire uranium sector, from the mining industry through enrichment, defence and industrial consumption.

The initiation of this review will not have an immediate impact on U.S. importers or foreign suppliers but could eventually lead to tariffs in the same way that the steel and aluminium investigations resulted in additional tariffs on products from all countries except those granted waivers by the U.S. government. BIS is also conducting a separate Section 232 investigation of imports of automobiles, including cars, sport utility vehicles, vans, light lorries and automotive parts, but that probe is facing opposition from various lawmakers and industry interests.

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