A senior energy official in Washington has raised concerns over the United States’ reliance on nuclear fuel imports from Russia, stating that it poses a significant national security threat. Assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Kathryn Huff, emphasized the critical nature of the issue, noting that approximately 20% of the nuclear fuel used by the US is supplied by Russia, a situation that she described as “gravely concerning.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Huff stressed the importance of reducing dependence on Russian nuclear fuel, citing the need to prioritize national security, climate considerations, and energy independence. She expressed urgency in addressing the situation, warning that failure to take action would allow Russia to maintain its stronghold on the nuclear fuel market.
The US and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russian oil and gas as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. However, sales of nuclear fuel from Russia remain legal and unsanctioned. With limited alternative supply sources for nuclear fuel, there have been efforts within the industry to reduce reliance on Russian imports and seek alternative supply sources. Industry groups have cited a need to increase capacity in the supply chain to facilitate the transition away from Russian nuclear fuel.
One of the key contributors to the US’ reliance on Russian nuclear fuel is Tenex, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom, which is the only company in the world that provides commercial sales of Haleu, a new type of fuel used in modern nuclear reactors. Russia also holds a significant share of the world’s uranium enrichment infrastructure, playing a critical role in the production of nuclear fuel. Additionally, Russia remains a major provider of uranium mining, milling, conversion, and enrichment services for US utilities.
Last year, approximately a quarter of the enriched uranium used by the US was sourced from Russia, as reported by US government figures. The situation has prompted calls for diversifying supply sources and reducing dependence on Russian nuclear fuel to mitigate national security risks and ensure energy independence.
The issue of reliance on Russian nuclear fuel has gained attention within the industry, with calls for increased investment in alternative supply sources. Efforts to step away from Russian imports are underway, but the process of finding viable alternatives is a complex and ongoing challenge.
The concerns raised by the senior energy official underscore the urgency of addressing the national security implications of the US’ dependence on Russian nuclear fuel. As the US and its allies navigate geopolitical complexities, finding a sustainable solution to reduce reliance on Russian nuclear fuel will be essential to safeguarding national security and ensuring a stable and independent energy supply.