The ongoing uranium import probe that claimed to threaten the United States’ nuclear power industry has been put to bed, as President Donald Trump’s statement noted that importing uranium from countries like Namibia does not threaten America’s national security, at least not yet.
A report on an investigation carried out by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce 18 months ago, titled “The effect of uranium Imports on the National Security and Establishment of the United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group,” stated that uranium is being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States as defined under section 232 of the Act.
“Currently, the United States imports approximately 93 percent of its commercial uranium, compared to 85.8 percent in 2009. The Secretary found that this figure is because of increased production by foreign state-owned enterprises, which have distorted global prices and made it more difficult for domestic mines to compete,” the presidential memoranda stated.
However, United States President Trump thinks otherwise, “At this time, I do not concur with the secretary’s finding that uranium imports threaten to impair the national security of the United States as defined under section 232 of the act.”
Trump plans to revive and expand the nuclear energy sector and directed a complete review of the U.S.’ nuclear energy policy and to do that the Working Group must submit, within 90 days, a report to the President setting forth its findings and making recommendations to further enable domestic nuclear fuel production if needed.
Although Trump does not see a threat to national security yet, Namibia is still on the edge as they can only hope these recommendations create a win-win situation for them as an uranium-producing country and the United States.
Since the probe began, Namibian uranium companies have been on the edge as there has been a reluctance by American companies to enter long-term off-take agreements with Namibian producers, further suppressing uranium prices and hurting Namibian uranium industry. Should Trump propose a 25 percent reduction in the market as advised, it would have had a negative impact on the marketability of Namibian uranium in the United states.
Currently, the United States accounts for a quarter of worldwide uranium demand and the country imports most of the uranium for fuel. In 2017, owners and operators of U.S. nuclear power reactors purchased the equivalent of about $53.90 million ofuranium in and about $40.16 million worth of uranium in 2018.
Uranium resources in Namibia accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s known total and the Southern African country is capable of providing 10 percent of the world’s mining output. The country’s recoverable uranium resources are about 275,000 tonnes U ($130/kg) and the reasonably assured resources portion of this is 176,000 tU, accessible by open-pit mining.
Namibia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has had a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force since 1998 and in 2000 signed the Additional Protocol. Namibia has also ratified the 1996 African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Pelindaba Treaty, which came into force in 2009 and precludes export of uranium to India.