The United States was late: Russia took control of part of the world’s uranium

The United States was late: Russia took control of part of the world’s uranium

Sergey Savchuk

Recently it became known that the Russian state corporation ” Rosatom ” held successful negotiations and will soon sell one of its controversial assets, namely the American subsidiary Uranium One (U1).
On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the Science for Peace and Development international forum, which was held at Rosatom’s own site, the head of the Russian nuclear giant Alexei Likha-chev said that an agreement in principle had been reached with the buyer, the American company Uranium One Americas.
According to unofficial sources, the seller will receive $ 112 million in physical cash for the controlling stake and another $ 19 million in bonds. The expert community views the deal as positive for the Russian company and focuses on the fact that Rosatom, having simultaneously got rid of the unprofitable asset, will make an undoubted profit, since the quotes are at their maximum.
However, such an interpretation is one-sided and limited, and therefore today we will try to consider the situation as a whole. Perhaps due to the inclusion of other facts, the picture will sparkle with much deeper, geostrategic colors.
Let’s take a little digression into history.
Russian citizens interested in politics are often convinced that the purchase of American assets by a Russian corporation began at the turn of 2016-2017, when all kinds of news outlets raised this news to the top of media attention. This is not entirely true. The scandal, which then rumbled in the American and further along the chain of the entire Western press, was just a part of the pre-election war waged by the US presidential candidates. The idea that the betrayal of American interests lies entirely with Hillary Clinton was formed and disseminated by the campaign headquarters of Donald Trump, who later became the owner of the Oval Office.
The essence of the charges brought against the representative of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, was that the latter, being the Secretary of State in the government of Barack Obama, personally signed a permit to sell a key and strategically important enterprise. And not to anyone, but to Russia, that is, to a historical adversary whom America at that time had been actively pressing for three years with sanctions for the return of Crimea.
Here you need to show objectivity and say that all this was nothing more than dirty political wrestling. Trump thus fended off a tsunami of accusations related to the so-called Paul Manafort case. Recall that in this case, the Democrats tried to prove that the Kremlin interfered in the American elections. Later it turned out that Ukrainian oligarchs were more likely to participate there, but more on that another time.
The Republicans did not remain in debt and, having rummaged in the archives, pulled out the sale of the main US enterprise associated with the extraction of a critical fuel resource, especially since there was no need to look for a Russian trace here.
The real history of everything that happened was somehow forgotten behind the wall of political noise.
The American media write only about the fact that interstate cooperation between Moscow and Washington began back in 1992, when the George W. Bush administration entered into an agreement with Russia, which implied that highly enriched uranium would be extracted from strategic missiles disposed of in the framework of disarmament, which, after processing it into low enrichment (fuel) will be shipped to the USA. Later, in 2008, the team of Bush Jr. concluded a new agreement, although it diligently hid this fact, since it soon imposed sanctions on Russia for “invading Georgia.” The first black President Barack Obama, who replaced the Bush family tandem, resumed nuclear cooperation two years later, despite bilateral relations entering a protracted tailspin. During that period, namely in 2009-2010,
At the same time, foreign publications diligently bypass the reasons for such an unusual desire of clinically Russophobic presidents to cooperate with Moscow and hand over the key to the room where their uranium lies in the hands of rivals.
The reason for the silence is simple and prosaic. The United States, which possesses the world’s largest grouping – 60 nuclear power plants in thirty states, which employ 98 reactors – have greatly depleted their uranium reserves and are unable to enrich it in quantities sufficient to cover their own needs. Dry statistics say that the United States imports the lion’s share of uranium: 22 percent comes from Canada, the same amount from Kazakhstan, 16 percent from Russia, 11 from Australia, eight from Uzbekistan and five more from Namibia.
As of the aforementioned 2010, the United States independently mined 4.2 million pounds of uranium oxide, and imported 55.3 million pounds from abroad. By the way, according to data for 2020, its own production there fell to a meager 0.17 million pounds, however, imports also dipped – to 49 million. Let’s remember the last numbers, they will come in handy below.
It should be mentioned that the richest and most developed country in the world, until recently, simply did not have a uranium enrichment plant. More precisely, they once were, but then they closed. At the turn of the forties and fifties of the last century, the Americans built three processing plants in the cities of Oak Ridge (Tennessee), Padaka (Kentucky) and Portsmouth (Ohio). By a strange coincidence, the US Department of Energy sold them into private hands for further closure exactly at the time when Bush Sr. signed a contract for the supply of fuel with Russia, reeling from hunger and hardship.
And although our country strictly adhered to its contractual obligations, at the turn of the millennium it became clear that Russia not only stopped internal destructive processes, but also began a gradual exit from the period of the terrible nineties. Naturally, Washington could not be totally dependent on the enemy, and therefore in 2006 Urenco began construction of the only currently operating uranium enrichment plant. The plant in the state of New Mexico uses centrifugal enrichment technology, the first stage was launched in June 2010, and as of today there are 63 enrichment cascades in operation. The American government promised to additionally build another plant in the city of Pikton, Ohio, but the matter did not go further.
The available production capacity is decidedly small. The Urenco plant produces only 4.9 SWU (separation work units) per year against a national demand of 55.7. The rest is imported from outside by Westinghouse, the same Urenco from its plant in Sweden, and supplies are also coming from Russia and Kazakhstan.
There is no official information on the first Uranium One purchase deals, but logic dictates that Obama’s most anti-Russian leadership, Clinton, could approve such a purchase only if there were some not advertised agreements. Either that the Russians will restore and increase production in Wyoming (the Reno Creek, Chistensen Ranch, Moore Ranch and Ludeman mines), or they will ensure fuel safety for the United States with supplies of their own production. We emphasize that this is only a version, but, you see, it is quite logical.
It so happened that our world is American-centric, and if a Russian company enters the local market, this is perceived as the main interest and vector of efforts. In our case, this is definitely not the case.
When concluding the deal, Rosatom was primarily interested not in Am-erica, but in Kazakhstan, the main uranium granary. Having bought Uranium One, the Russian corporation received controlling stakes in the local uranium mines Ankal, Yuzhny Inkal, Karatau, Akbastau, Zarechnoye and Khorasan.
To make the scale clear, we add that Kazakhstan ranks second (after Australia) in the world in terms of reserves (over eight hundred and forty thousand tons) and first in the production of fuel uranium (nineteen and a half thousand tons per year).
The package agreement also included the acquisition of industrial enterprises in Namibia. And again before us is a country that is one of the world’s top five in uranium reserves. Then-presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Hifikepunye Pohamba soon signed an intergovernmental agreement under which Russia invested $ 1 billion in geological exploration, and in return Namibia provided the Russian monopolist with 8,000 square kilometers for exploration and preferential terms for resource extraction.
Thus, as a result of one major deal, Rosatom began to control almost eight percent of the world’s uranium production. For comparison: the whole of Kazakhstan is deservedly very proud of the figure of twelve percent.
Well, then it is known. Maidan, Crimea, the war in Donbass, sanctions that rained down on us like a cornucopia. Cooperation with Russia has become impossible, in principle, even for those who were vitally dependent on Russian supplies. But no one dared to take away the Russian assets in a very gangly version, and Rosatom was in no hurry.
At the moment, the average age of American nucl-ear power plants is close to forty years, the future of the construction of two new nuclear power plants is extremely vague, its own uranium mining has not been revived, and all needs are met with the help of Westinghouse, which is in fact the last lifeline, or purchases from third parties.
During the same period, Rosatom signed a whole bunch of foreign contracts and took over two-thirds of the world market, Russian miners have thoroughly up-dated the geological maps of Africa and Central Asia.
Uranium One has brought unknown losses over ten years of ownership, but there is hardly a calculator capable of recalculating the ratio of successfully implemented geopolitical tasks and the money spent along the way. Games on the world chessboard sometimes go on for decades, and their tactics, as well as the results, are not always clear even to a very attentive spectator.

The post The United States was late: Russia took control of part of the world’s uranium appeared first on The Frontier Post.