Outside Control of U.S. Uranium Mining Raises Security Concerns

Lawmakers and environmental activists in the United States have raised concerns about allowing management of U.S. mining operations to fall into foreign hands, Greenwire reported on Thursday (see GSN, July 17, 2007).

There is worry that rogue actors might obtain U.S. uranium mined by companies owned by foreign companies. The effort by Russian-backed ARMZ to take up management of a Canadian-led firm that conducts mining operations in the United States was noted by Republican lawmakers in Washington.

"This transaction would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America's uranium production capacity," Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) stated in a December letter to President Obama. "As you know, Russia has a disturbing record of supporting nuclear programs in countries that are openly hostile to the United States."

Russia led construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran and in 2010 pledged to help Venezuela establish an atomic energy operation. "This record is at great odds with our own national security," according to Barrasso.

Another point of concern is Korea Electric Power's role in ownership of Canadian-headquartered company that plans to conduct several uranium mining operations close to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Uranium can be used to power atomic energy plants, but with sufficient enrichment can also be employed in nuclear weapons.

A National Mining Association spokesman characterized worries about outside ownership of U.S. uranium mining operations as "misplaced and misinformed." The United States has established measures to ensure antagonist states cannot obtain U.S.-origin uranium, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

A permit from the commission is required for firms to ship uranium out of the United States, Jaczko stated in a March 21 letter to Barrasso.

"Before issuing such a license, the NRC would have to determine that the proposed export would not be inimical to the common defense and security of the United States," the letter states.

Additional measures are in place to bar countries that are allowed to import U.S. uranium from passing the material onto other entities (Manuel Quinones, Greenwire/New York Times, May 4).

May 6, 2011
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Lawmakers and environmental activists in the United States have raised concerns about allowing management of U.S. mining operations to fall into foreign hands, Greenwire reported on Thursday (see GSN, July 17, 2007).