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New law with bipartisan support weans American power plants from Russian uranium: 'A great win for America's people and for America's energy future'

"Putin's war machine has now lost one of its cash cows."

"Putin's war machine has now lost one of its cash cows."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new law passed in May could be the push that America needs to build a domestic market for enriched uranium and smaller, safer nuclear reactors, the New York Times reported.

Signed into law by President Joe Biden on May 13 after a year of delays in Congress, the bill bans the import of Russian-enriched uranium. Despite many setbacks, the bill passed unanimously, the Times reported. The delays came about because it was being used as a bargaining chip in other, unrelated political negotiations.

The new ban will take place in August, unless a lack of enriched uranium would cause a nuclear reactor to shut down, the Times revealed. In that case, the company can receive a waiver to extend the deadline to 2028.

In the past, the U.S. had a thriving industry for enriching uranium for use in nuclear reactors. However, the government struck a deal with Russia to buy Russian uranium at a low cost to encourage Russia to use its nuclear assets peacefully. Decades later, the U.S.-enriched uranium industry is nonexistent, and the country spends about $1 billion per year on Russian imports.

Senator John Barrasso, the Wyoming congressman who wrote the bill, said during remarks on the Senate floor that the bill's passage is "a great win for America's people and for America's energy future." He added, "Putin's war machine has now lost one of its cash cows."

However, since the country is still transitioning to energy sources that don't pollute the air, we need enriched uranium to run nuclear reactors. Nuclear is especially important because, unlike wind and solar, it's available day or night without regard for the weather and without needing extensive battery storage. According to the Times, nuclear plants provide more than half of our current non-polluting electricity.

That's why the new bill frees up $2.7 billion in federal funds to reawaken America's enriched uranium industry. The project will take years, but it could supply all the material we need to keep the lights on.

Not only that, but this could spur the development of more concentrated enriched uranium for smaller, more efficient, and safer next-generation reactors.

As Dan Leistikow, spokesperson for Centrus Energy — the main U.S. company involved in enriching uranium — told the Times: "Waivers are urgently needed in the short term, but ultimately, the only solution is to invest in new American capacity."

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