The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Trade ruling favors USEC over uranium importers
The ruling means two European firms will be assessed higher import duties to make their prices more competitive with USEC.

By Joe Walker

USEC has won its yearlong trade battle claiming that low-enriched uranium imports from Europe are harming the uranium enrichment industry in this country and the 1,500-employee Paducah plant.

The International Trade Commission ruled unanimously Tuesday that the imports have or threaten to materially harm USEC, the nation's sole supplier of enriched uranium.

"The U.S. government's decision will help ensure that the U.S. enrichment market remains open for strong, healthy competition," said William Timbers, USEC president and chief executive officer. "We believe this is in the long-term interests of our industry, our customers and the nation's energy security."

The ruling ends a probe of USEC claims of unfair pricing by two European competitors — Eurodif, S.A., controlled by the French government; and Urenco Ltd., a British-Dutch-German consortium.

‘‘Obviously we are disappointed. We think the decision is wrong,’’ said Gary Fox, executive vice president of the U.S. arm of Cogema Inc., the majority owner of Eurodif.

‘‘We do believe that the duty that was assessed on us still is not justified,’’ said Maurice Lenders, a managing director at Urenco.

The Commerce Department ruled last month that France subsidized Eurodif and that Britain, Germany and the Netherlands subsidized Urenco. The agency also found Eurodif guilty of dumping, which means it sold low-enriched uranium at below the fair value.

The Commerce Department is expected to receive the commission's ruling Feb. 4 and soon issue final orders in the case.

As a result, the two European firms will be assessed higher import duties to make their prices more competitive with USEC. The duties are about 53.5 percent on the value of units of enriched uranium from Eurodif and 3.72 percent on those from Urenco, USEC said.

About $1.1 billion of low-enriched uranium is sold annually in the United States.

The market price of the nuclear fuel has increased from about $80 per unit just before USEC filed the trade case to about $100 now.

‘‘We believe that a return to rational pricing was needed for the nuclear industry,’’ USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said.

But John Longenecker, a consultant specializing in nuclear energy issues, predicted consumers would feel the effect of any further increase that results from Tuesday’s ruling.

‘‘The increased cost of nuclear fuel will go directly to the rate payer,’’ he said.

Stuckle disagreed. ‘‘The amount of difference as portrayed in fuel-cost prices is small, and by the time it gets translated into an individual customer’s bill it’s almost negligible,’’ she said.

The higher duties are expected to help protect jobs at the Paducah plant as well as about 300 workers at the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, Ill., which produces raw product for Paducah.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)