Republicans seek to block Russian takeover of US uranium mineFour key Republican members of the House - Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Spencer Bachus of Alabama, Peter T. King of New York and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California - have written a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, asking him to block the sale of a controlling interest in a uranium mine in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, to an arm of the Russian government's nuclear agency. The four House members are respectively, the ranking minority members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, the House Homeland Security Committee, and the House Armed Services Committee, and could become the chairmen of those committees if the Republicans win control of the House in next month's elections.
The lawmakers are raising alarm over the proposed sale of a Powder River Basin, Wyoming-based uranium processing facility operated by Uranium One USA, a Canadian-based company, to Atomredmetzoloto, a subsidiary of the Russian government agency Rosatom, according to a letter obtained Tuesday by The Washington Times.Uranium One USA claims that it has received assurances that the Russians will not use any of the uranium mined in the US to fuel Iranian reactors. Sorry folks, but that's absurd. How are you going to enforce it? What do you do with the fact that uranium is a commodity and therefore fungible? Does the US really want to become a source for uranium for Russia and its allies? That sounds like a bad idea to me.
The sale was first announced on Aug. 31, and the lawmakers claim that it could give Moscow control of up to 20 percent of the U.S. national uranium extraction capability and a controlling interest in one of the country's largest uranium mining sites.
A fact sheet on the website of Uranium One says the company intends to complete the transaction by the end of the year. The Russian concern already owns a 23.1 percent share of Uranium One's common stock and is seeking a controlling 51 percent share in the subsidiary.
The fact sheet notes that the sale still must be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — the federal interagency body that looks at the national security implications of foreign investments. It played a central role in the Dubai Ports World controversy.
The lawmakers said in their letter that Rosatom, the Russian government nuclear agency, has "shown little if any inclination to effectively address the widespread and continuing corruption within Russia, particularly its energy sector."
They also express concern that Rosatom in the past has been involved in energy deals with Iran, including design work and the training of Iranian scientists for the Bushehr nuclear power plant that went online in August.
Rosatom also has worked closely with Burmese scientists over U.S. objections.
"Why would Russia, which already has plenty of uranium of its own, want to buy more?" Mr. Sokolski asked. "There have been rumors that Rosatom wants to build a large uranium enrichment plant to sell nuclear fuel for U.S. civil power reactors. If so, the company is almost certain to ask for U.S. federal loan guarantees, which the French and Dutch have already done."Indeed.
Mr. Sokolski added, "In this case, you have got to believe that some of the security concerns raised in the letter, and others as well, could prompt [Congress to impose] conditions for approving such a loan."
Sorry, but I'd kill this deal.
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