The decision is seen as a good sign for USEC and Honeywell.
By Joe Walker email@example.com
USEC Inc. managers say the continued control of uranium shipped from Russia is a positive sign for the financially troubled firm that runs the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
The International Trade Commission ruled 5-0 Wednesday that ending restrictions on overpriced Russian imports would significantly harm the U.S. uranium industry, including USEC and ConverDyn, marketing arm for the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, Ill.
Honeywell — which converts uranium to uranium hexafluoride, the raw product for the Paducah plant — also is in financial difficulty, in part because of the amount of Russian uranium added to the already glutted U.S. market. Adding uranium to a saturated market would force prices even lower, the companies say.
"The ITC's decision is important for maintaining a viable domestic nuclear fuel industry," said William "Nick" Timbers, USEC president and chief executive officer. "We have long contended that terminating the Russian suspension agreement would undermine the domestic industry."
The ruling followed a June 28 U.S. Commerce Department decision that dumping of natural and enriched uranium on the American market would probably recur if the 1992 agreement were ended. Russia had requested the termination.
Timbers said both decisions are critical to USEC, which is buying 500 tons of uranium from dismantled Russian warheads in a nuclear disarmament deal between the countries. The uranium is priced higher than the USEC plants' manufacturing costs and displaces half their production. As a result, USEC has opted to upgrade the Paducah plant and close its sister plant near Portsmouth, Ohio, by next June.
The ITC ruling ends a "sunset review" of the agreement begun 11 months ago. The contract limits imports of Russian uranium products except those matched with new U.S. production or delivered under certain contracts existing when the agreement was signed. It does not affect uranium shipped under the disarmament deal.