By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bill banning Russian uranium imports to the United States gained momentum on Tuesday by passing a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, passed 18-12 in the House subcommittee on energy, climate and grid security.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the United States banned imports of its oil and imposed a price cap with other Western countries on sea-borne exports of its crude and oil products, but it has not banned imports of its uranium.
The United States imported about 14% of its uranium from Russia in 2021, compared to 35% from Kazakhstan and 15% from Canada, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States was the source of about 5% of uranium used domestically that year, the EIA said.
"The war in Ukraine has made it abundantly clear we cannot be at the whims of Russia for our fuel supply," said Representative Jeff Duncan, the chair of the committee. "It should be a bipartisan, national security objective to wean the United States industry off Russian uranium imports.
A similar bill has been referred to the energy committee in the U.S. Senate. Before becoming law, the legislation would have to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden.
The House bill contains waivers allowing the import of low-enriched uranium from Russia if the U.S. energy secretary determines there is no alternative source available for operation of a nuclear reactors or U.S. nuclear energy company, or if the shipments are in the national interest.
The waivers would gradually limit allowed imports of Russian uranium from about 578,900 kilos (1,276,256 lb) in 2023, to about 459,000 kilos (1,011,921 lb) in 2027, with any waivers ending by 2028.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)