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Utah benefits from the Russian uranium embargo, but the Navajo Nation wants shipments to stop



Salt Lake City, Utah — Utah’s uranium business is benefiting from a bill that the president signed, despite the Navajo Nation’s request that ore shipments cease.

President Biden authorized the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act earlier this month. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 35 percent of the nuclear fuel imported by the United States comes from Russia.

By 2028, the measure will have outlawed Russian uranium imports once they were phased out.

“For Utah, we think that this will probably provide a little bit of uplift in uranium prices,” said Curtis Moore, the senior vice president of marketing and corporate development for Energy Fuels.

In southeast Utah, it has a uranium mill next to White Mesa and mines uranium close to La Sal.

“So, it is possible that there could be a greater economic incentive to mine uranium in Utah,” Moore said, though he added the benefit could be slight.

“Yeah, I think a few more jobs is certainly possible,” Moore said.

Energy Fuels lobbied on the law, according to documents obtained by Open Secrets.

Though the rise is nothing like the mining and milling that occurred during the Cold War, Utah has experienced a revival of uranium. Throughout the Four Corners, uranium mining in the 1950s and 1960s left sick miners and hazardous locations, especially on the Navajo Nation.

The president of the Navajo Nation signed a resolution requesting that uranium be stopped from being shipped across Navajo tribal grounds a few days prior to President Biden signing the ban on Russian imports.

“We are elevating it to President Biden himself,” Justin Ahasteen, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington, D.C., office, said in a update broadcast on Youtube in early May, “to make sure that all federal resources are deployed in order to find different fixes to respect tribal sovereignty so that we can enforce on own laws on the nation but also prevent harmful risk of uranium exposure through transportation of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.”

Moore maintained that uranium can be transported safely on roadways even though he expressed respect for the Navajo president and people.

“We shipped about 300,000 tons of uranium ore across the Navajo Nation using many of these same roads between about 2007 and 2015,” Moore said, “And so the relatively recent past, with no incidents.”

There isn’t a single record of a uranium shipment spilling on the Navajo Nation this century, nor is there any record of one occurring anyplace in Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico, according to a search of a database of hazardous material mishaps kept by the US Department of Transportation.



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