U.S. continues buying uranium from Russia in spite of war

Almost a quarter of imported uranium is of Russian origin.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States imposed sanctions on Russian oil and gas but continued importing Russia-enriched uranium for its more than 90 commercial nuclear reactors. It was only in December 2023 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill prohibiting the purchase of Russian uranium. 

"Yellowcake" – one of the first steps towards making nuclear fuel. Credit: World Nuclear Association

If the Senate approves it, the U.S. will cut the supply of uranium by a quarter. According to the Energy Information Administration’s latest statistical and analytical report, in 2022, the United States purchased 3,876 standard work units (SWU; 1 SWU is equivalent to 1 kg of separative work) of enriched uranium from domestic producers and traders that year – or 27.34% of total.

Other notable suppliers were Russia (3,409 SWU, 24%), Germany (1,763 SWU, 12.4%), the United Kingdom (1,593 SWU, 11.23%), and the Netherlands (1,303 SWU, 9.2%). Others contributed 2,232 SWU or 15.8%. Total uranium consumption in 2022 was more than 14 SWU.

Most of the remaining uranium is imported from European countries, while a portion is produced by a British-Dutch-German consortium called Urenco, which operates in the U.S.

Nuclear fuel pellets. Each pellet is not bigger than a sugar cube but contains as much energy as a ton of coal. Credit: World Nuclear Association

The report highlights that nearly a dozen countries around the world depend on Russia for more than half of their enriched uranium and many of them are NATO members and allies of Ukraine.

In 2023 alone, the U.S. nuclear industry paid over $800 million to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, and its fuel subsidiaries. The report for this year is not yet available.

More to read:
A new nuclear disaster is looming in eastern Ukraine

In the U.S., 19% of electricity is generated by nuclear plants.

It’s unclear when the Senate will vote on the uranium ban bill.

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