A Russian company that took control of uranium mines in Wyoming is barred from exporting produced material and executives at U.S.-based subsidiaries will remain in charge, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report.
ARMZ, the uranium-holding unit of Russia’s state-owned nuclear-energy group Rosatom Corp. in Moscow, announced a partial takeover of Uranium One Inc. of Vancouver, Canada, this year. U.S. agencies including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the deal.
Federal oversight of the nuclear industry should allay national security concerns that a foreign power would control uranium production, Nick Carter, vice president for Uranium of Ux Consulting in Roswell, Georgia, said in an interview.
“I don’t think that it should be a huge concern,” Carter said after the Financial Times today reported the deal may give ARMZ control of more than half of U.S. uranium production. Ux is a nuclear consulting company that provides data on uranium prices.
The NRC safety-evaluation report concluded that “day-to-day project development, operations and any decommissioning activities” at mines in the Irigaray/Christensen Ranch and Moore Ranch in Wyoming will be made by Uranium One’s two U.S.- based subsidiaries, Uranium One USA Inc. and Uranium One Americas Inc.
The regulatory commission has required ARMZ to notify regulators of any personnel changes at the company’s U.S. mines.
The agency said Uranium One and ARMZ lack a license to export nuclear fuel, and material from the mine must be used in the U.S. Most uranium used to generate U.S. nuclear power is imported, Carter said.
The Irigaray/Christensen Ranch mine in northeast Wyoming, which is idle, will be able to produce about 1.3 million pounds when it reopens, increasing to 2.5 million pounds, he said.
The U.S. produces about 4.4 million pounds of uranium a year, Carter said.
Carter said ARMZ production capacity probably won’t exceed a third of the U.S. total because other mines are planning to open or boost production as uranium prices per-pound rise to more than $60 from $40 this summer.
Julian Steyn, a partner at Energy Resources International Inc., a consulting firm in Washington, said Uranium One’s assets in Kazakhstan made the company attractive. The U.S. produces about 3 percent of the world’s uranium.
“They didn’t buy it because of the U.S.,” Steyn said. “Kazakhstan is the big gorilla. It wasn’t a cunning, scheming Russian thing.”
The Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal agency composed of officials from agencies including the Treasury Department, reviews foreign purchases that raise concerns about national security.
Natalie Wyeth, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, said the department doesn’t comment on the activities of the committee.