For decades, Russia has methodically built and implemented a plan to undermine U.S. national security. This effort has been so successful that we are now on the brink of handing Moscow control of a significant portion of our power grid.
In the United States, nuclear energy plants generate 20 percent of our electricity. Uranium is a critical element in the fuel that powers these plants, yet more than 99 percent of the uranium we need is imported. These imports increasingly come from U.S. adversaries, including Russia and other countries in its sphere of influence.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia’s state-backed enterprises have mined uranium and flooded the global market. Over the past 10 years, Russia’s billionaire oligarchs and state officials who oversee these enterprises have ensured that uranium is so cheap that free market mining companies have been unable to compete. No free market price can beat that of enterprises funded by the state.
As a result, our formerly robust American uranium mining industry has nearly vanished. In few states is this more apparent than it is here in Wyoming. In 2012, Wyoming produced approximately 1.3 million pounds of uranium and the industry employed more than 300 people. Fast forward to 2018 when the state’s production decreased to approximately 665,000 pounds and the workforce dwindled to about 200 people. These numbers are expected to be even lower this year.
Historically, we could count on uranium from free market allies like Canada and Australia, but we can no longer rely on them to help us. After shuttering mines because of cheap imports, their industries are suffering, too. Only one uranium mine operates in Canada today.
U.S. dependence on autocracies and kleptocracies presents a profound national security threat. Our reliance on corrupt state officials and oligarchs to power our electric grid also diminishes U.S. national defense capabilities.
International treaties mandate that the uranium used for our defense and military comes from domestic sources. Without a robust domestic uranium mining industry, we won’t have the material necessary to fuel our Navy’s nuclear-powered ships and submarines. These are among our Navy’s most important vessels – aircraft carriers, nuclear ballistic missile submarines and fast-attack submarines.
Whether the U.S. allows Russia to control our power grid and jeopardize our ability to keep our country safe is up to the Trump administration. The Department of Commerce will soon submit a report to the president based on its investigation into whether uranium imports affect U.S. national security. We believe the facts speak for themselves.
We urge the Department of Commerce and the president to take actions that will support the U.S. uranium mining industry and preserve our national security. For the sake of our country’s safety, there must be action – and soon.