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Senate chairman presses nuclear regulators on Uranium One exports

Senate chairman presses nuclear regulators on Uranium One exports
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Monday demanded U.S nuclear regulators explain how a Russian-owned mining company was able to ship American uranium outside the country using a third-party export license.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhy grizzly bear hunting season isn’t happening Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Dems to force health care vote weeks before Nov. midterms MORE (R-Wyo.) said new information brought to light in a series of stories published by The Hill about Uranium One’s exports to Canada, Europe and Asia conflicts with assurances he was given years ago by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the mining firm’s uranium would stay inside the United States.

“Recent reporting by The Hill uncovered that Uranium One was able to export uranium without obtaining a specific export license,” Barrasso wrote in his letter Monday to the NRC and the Energy Department.

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At issue is how the NRC approved letting Uranium One use a trucking company’s export license to move uranium outside U.S. borders after it was purchased by the ARMZ subsidiary of the Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom in 2010.

In his letter, Barrasso said he believes he received misleading responses at the time of his initial questions in 2010 from the Obama Department of Energy (DOE) and then-NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko.

“On March 21, 2011, former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko responded to my letter on behalf of then-President Obama stating: ‘At this time, neither Uranium One Inc. nor ARMZ holds a specific NRC export license. In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One, Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use in reactor fuel,’” he wrote in Monday’s letter.

Barrasso’s committee has oversight jurisdiction over the NRC.

Republicans have long raised questions about the Obama administration’s approval of Russia’s Uranium One purchase, both because of national security concerns and revelations that Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCybersecurity for national defense: How many 'wake-up calls' does it take? Who's in control alters our opinion of how things are Obama adviser jabs Hillary Clinton over Monica Lewinsky comments MORE collected personal speech money and charitable donations from parties interested in the sale while the issue was pending at his wife Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Closing message for Democrats Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP mocks Clinton after minor vehicle collision outside Mendendez campaign event MORE’s State Department.

Clinton and Obama officials have countered those concerns for years by saying there were no national security concerns cited by any of the 10 federal agencies that approved the deal and that none of Uranium One’s uranium was exported.

The Hill reported earlier this fall that an FBI undercover informant discovered a Rosatom executive and contractors were engaged in criminality as early as 2009, a year before the sale was approved. 

Congress has since launched multiple investigations into whether decisionmakers were alerted to the criminal concerns. Separately, the Justice Department has given permission for the undercover informant to testify for the first time, perhaps as early as this month.

In October, The Hill confirmed with the NRC that Uranium One exports flowed from Wyoming to Canada and, in some cases, into Europe between 2012 and 2014. Uranium One said some of its Canadian exports were eventually transferred to clients in Europe and Asia.

Barrasso wrote in Monday’s letter he is most concerned because the NRC has no oversight of uranium once it leaves U.S. shores.

“While the NRC controls exports from the U.S., it does not have any control over subsequent exports once uranium is outside the U.S. border. The DOE is integral to the decision-making process regarding any subsequent exports,” the letter said.

He accused the Obama administration of misleading him over the possibility that uranium could have been exported from Canada after leaving the United States by sending a letter to him that said the DOE had no role in the matter.

“While the NRC controls exports from the U.S., it does not have any control over subsequent exports once uranium is outside the U.S. border,” he wrote.

“By stating DOE had no role in the matter, the DOE concealed the possibility of subsequent exports and their responsibility in reviewing them,” he added.

The Senate chairman demanding the Energy Department and NRC answer questions and provide data by no later than Jan. 31.