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No Section 232 Import Restrictions on Uranium

President Trump has declined to impose import restrictions on uranium despite a DOC determination that imports are threatening to impair national security.

In July 2018 the DOC initiated a Section 232 investigation of uranium ore, uranium concentrate, uranium hexafluoride, enriched uranium and enriched uranium in fuel assemblies. In April 2019 the department determined that imports of these goods are threatening U.S. national security, noting that the U.S. currently imports about 93 percent of its commercial uranium (up from 85.8 percent in 2009) and that increased production by foreign state-owned enterprises have distorted global prices and made it more difficult for U.S. uranium mines to compete.

However, a 12 July presidential memorandum disagrees with the DOC’s determination, stating that while the report’s findings “raise significant concerns … a fuller analysis of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain is necessary at this time.” To that end the memorandum establishes an inter-agency working group to develop recommendations for reviving and expanding domestic nuclear fuel production.

If the president had agreed with the DOC he would have had broad authority to adjust imports, including through the use of tariffs and quotas. The petitioner had requested (i) a quota that would reserve 25 percent of the U.S. market for U.S. uranium and (ii) a Buy America policy for U.S. government agencies that utilise uranium.

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