U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), is demanding answers today to a key question of the Uranium One investigation – whether the Obama administration intentionally misled Congress on uranium exports.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Kristine Svinicki, Barrasso seeks to expand the investigation into the Obama administration’s approval of the sale of Uranium One’s uranium recovery facilities in Wyoming to Russian state-owned firm Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ).
Writing to Perry and Svinicki, Barrasso points to misleading information provided by the Obama administration concerning the role of the Department of Energy (DOE) in approving the export of uranium. By law, once U.S.-origin uranium is exported to a foreign country, the DOE must approve of any subsequent exports of that material. In the case of Uranium One, uranium was first exported to Canada and then to Europe.
In 2010, Barrasso wrote an initial letter to then-President Barack Obama registering his strong concerns regarding Russian control over Uranium One’s American production facilities and Russia’s ability to ship U.S. uranium overseas. Barrasso also requested immediate notification should ARMZ file for a license to export U.S. uranium.
Barrasso received a response from former NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko in 2011 on behalf of President Obama. Based on recent revelations, Barrasso believes the response he received from Jaczko and the lack of a response from DOE, were misleading.
In today’s letter, Barrasso writes: “On March 21, 2011, former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko responded to my letter on behalf of then-President Obama stating: ‘At this time, neither Uranium One Inc. nor ARMZ holds a specific NRC export license. In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One, Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use in reactor fuel’ …. Recent reporting by The Hill uncovered that Uranium One was able to export uranium without obtaining a specific export license. Beginning in 2012, Uranium One exported U.S. uranium by ‘piggy-backing’ as a supplier on an export license held by the shipping company, RSB Logistic Services Inc.”
Barrasso also notes that the administration mislead him concerning the role of the DOE in approving the subsequent export of uranium that originated from the United States. “While the NRC controls exports from the U.S., it does not have any control over subsequent exports once uranium is outside the U.S. border. The DOE is integral to the decision-making process regarding any subsequent exports. Reporting by the Casper Star Tribune shows that, upon receipt of my letter to President Obama, the White House forwarded the letter to the DOE which then referred this matter to the NRC stating: ‘Because the subject of the letter does not fall within the purview of the Department of Energy, we are forwarding the letter to your agency.’ By stating DOE had no role in the matter, the DOE concealed the possibility of subsequent exports and their responsibility in reviewing them,” writes Barrasso.
Barrasso’s letter poses several questions of the DOE and the NRC regarding their approval processes and their documentation of the decision. Barrasso writes, “To assist the Committee with its investigation into this matter, I am requesting information regarding your agency’s respective roles, responsibilities, actions, and interactions, including:
- All documents, including communications, relating to interactions between the NRC and the DOE with regard to the 2010 transfer of control of Uranium One to ARMZ and the 2013 purchase of the remaining interests in Uranium One;
- All documents, including communications, relating to each export and subsequent transfer of natural uranium produced in the U.S. by Uranium One following the transfer of control of the company to ARMZ in 2010;
- All documents, including communications relating to your agency’s determinations that the sale of Uranium One, exports of its uranium, and subsequent transfers between foreign countries did not raise any unresolved national security concerns; and
- All documents, including communications, relating to your agency’s recommendation to President Obama to resubmit the U.S.-Russia 123 agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation to Congress for review.”
Barrasso closes the letter by posing several questions of each specific agency and that these questions be responded to by January 31, 2018.
Read the full letter here.
The Senate EPW Committee has oversight jurisdiction of the NRC.
On October 24, 2017, the House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee announced they are opening investigations into the approval of the transfer of control of Uranium One.