Up & Atom


Update: President Biden signed the bill on May 14, 2024 and the ban will take effect on August 12, 2024.

Congress recently passed legislation to ban imports of Russian uranium products into the United States. The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act (HR 1042) (the Act) was approved by the House of Representatives on December 11, 2023, and the Senate on April 30, 2024. President Biden plans to sign the bill, and the ban would go into effect 90 days later.

While the Act bans importing Russian uranium products, it also gives the Secretary of Energy authority to waive the ban and allow imports under certain conditions. Russia may, however, preemptively ban exports of uranium, which would negate this waiver authority. Although the US nuclear industry relies on Russian imports for some of its fuel needs, other sources of uranium and enrichment services, along with a rebuilding domestic fuel cycle industry, should eventually blunt any significant impacts from the Act on the US nuclear industry.


In response to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, the United States and other countries sanctioned many sectors of the Russian economy and prohibited imports from Russia. These sanctions included banning imports of Russian oil and gas, but not imports of Russian uranium and enriched uranium products. The decision not to ban Russian uranium imports was driven, at least in part, by the US nuclear industry’s reliance on Russian-sourced uranium and Russian enrichment services.

As the House Report for the Act acknowledges, the US nuclear industry relies on imports from Russia’s state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom and its subsidiary Tenex for more than 20% of its enriched uranium needs. As the war in Ukraine continues, however, there has been a growing desire in Congress to ban these imports to further constrict Russia’s financial resources. We covered a past legislative attempt to ban imports of Russian uranium products in 2022.

Congress Passes Ban on Russian Uranium Imports

The Act amends Section 3112A of the USEC Privatization Act (42 USC 2297h-10a) to prohibit importing into the United States (1) unirradiated low-enriched uranium (LEU) that is produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian entity and (2) unirradiated LEU that is determined to have been exchanged with, swapped for, or otherwise obtained in lieu of unirradiated LEU produced in the Russian Federation or by a Russian entity in a manner designed to circumvent the import prohibition. This prohibition takes effect 90 days after enactment.

The Act also gives the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretaries of State and Commerce, authority to waive the prohibition and allow Russian LEU imports until 2028. In order to waive the prohibition, the Secretary of Energy must determine there is no alternative viable source of LEU available to sustain the continued operation of a US nuclear reactor or US nuclear company or that allowing the imports are in the national interest. The amount of Russian uranium that can be imported under a waiver is capped as follows in calendar years:

  • 2024: 476,536 kilograms
  • 2025: 470,376 kilograms
  • 2026: 464,183 kilograms
  • 2027: 459,083 kilograms

The Department of Energy (DOE) is reportedly planning to publish a Federal Register notice outlining the procedure to request such a waiver within 30 days from enactment. In congressional hearings on the Act, the DOE acknowledged that Russia could preemptively issue its own ban on exporting uranium products to the United States. Then-Assistant Secretary Dr. Kathryn Huff explained that “over the last few years there has been a very real and present possibility that Russia could stop abruptly sending enriched uranium to the United States.” Such action by Russia would nullify the potential relief from the waiver provision in the Act.

The Act’s prohibition on imports does not apply to imports of nonuranium isotopes. The prohibition also does not apply to imports by or under contract to the DOE for national security or nonproliferation purposes. The Act’s prohibition terminates on December 31, 2040.

Potential Impacts on US Nuclear Industry

Although the US nuclear industry currently relies on Russia for more than 20% of its enriched uranium needs, any negative effect of the Act’s ban on imports is not expected to be significant in the short term. For one, the industry has been working to secure non-Russian uranium supplies in anticipation of a possible ban or a preemptive Russian export ban. Thus, the cost of a possible disruption may already be reflected in uranium pricing. Second, US reactors typically maintain a working inventory of fuel and uranium feedstock to cover a refuel every 18 to 24 months, which means the material needed for their next refueling outage has likely already been secured. Even so, assuring that material has been delivered to the US may be important.

The impact of the import ban may increase in the medium term (24-60 months) as the ability for DOE to issue a waiver (assuming no Russian retaliatory ban on exports) will end in 2028. In addition, companies may have increased exposure to the extent that fuel needed during this period has not been secured from non-Russian sources. Although the House Report on the Act notes companies could seek to access the DOE’s American Assured Fuel Supply to obtain LEU, accessing this program requires the DOE to find there has been a “fuel supply disruption that cannot be addressed by normal market mechanisms.”

This standard does not seem to account for the market price of LEU, however, and companies run the risk of being unable to access this program so long as LEU is available even if it is available only at uneconomical prices. Moreover, because this program has never been accessed, the amount of time it would take the DOE to approve a request is unknown. Thus, companies that anticipate a potential need should move promptly and consider what specific information they would need to provide to demonstrate the absence of an alternative source of LEU.

The long-term impact of the import ban is unknown. One potential benefit of the import ban is encouraging the rebuilding of domestic uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment capacity to meet current and future US needs. The legislation’s sunset of 2040 is intended to provide incentive for long-term deployment of uranium conversion and enrichment facilities and services in the United States and in allied countries. Whether the expected US demand and the possibility of import restrictions through 2040 will be sufficient to encourage an adequate commitment of capital to expand needed facilities and avoid future bottlenecks remains to be seen. Additional policy support for those investments may be necessary from the United States or from nonsanctioned nations to ensure reliability of supply.

Morgan Lewis counsels nuclear fuel cycle facilities and nuclear reactor owners on fuel supply contracts and related commercial and regulatory issues and will continue to closely follow developments in this area.