U.S. working on uranium strategy, should not import from Russia -Granholm

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with EU representatives at the State Department in Washington
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles, and European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson at the State Department in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Thursday that the United States was working on a strategy to ensure steady uranium supply and that the country should not be sending any more money to Russia for the nuclear reactor fuel.

John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, asked Granholm at a hearing on President Joe Biden's proposed budget whether the president would ban imports of Russian uranium as a way to further weaken Russia.

"I'll let the president make that statement but I can say that this is a point on which I think we have a lot of agreement. We should not be sending any money to Russia for any American energy or for any other reason," she said.

She said the Energy Department is working on a broad uranium strategy to ensure steady supply for U.S. nuclear requirements.

Biden in March banned the import of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, but not uranium. Russia is the third largest supplier of uranium to the United States.

The U.S. power industry relies on Russia and its allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for roughly half of the uranium powering its nuclear power plants. It had been lobbying the White House to allow the imports even as U.S. and Western sanctions against Russia escalated.

Granholm said the United States was working to ensure it can supply low-enriched uranium to fuel existing nuclear reactors.

"If we move away from Russia right away, we want to make sure we have the ability to continue to keep the fleet afloat," she said.

She also told Barrasso the department would make available about 20 tons of so-called high assay, low enriched uranium (HALEU) expected to be used in advanced reactors being developed in coming years in his state of Wyoming and in Washington state. read more

A full federal uranium strategy is going through the interagency review process, Granholm said.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot

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Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.