Procrustean Interpretations of the Uranium One Deal

The Clintons certainly have a knack for attracting Procrustean* interpretations from the right wing over non-events.   So it seems is the case with the latest manufactured scandal, Uranium One (U1) and the Clinton Foundation.  Amid the calls for investigations from the right, certain elements of the media have grossly mischaracterized aspects of the deal, implying that it poses a threat to national security by selling 20% of all US uranium to Russia. And since the principal party on the Russian side make large contributions to the Clinton Foundation while the deal was going through approvals, national security was sacrificed to the greed of the corrupt Clintons.

I’ll leave it to others to opine on whether the Clintons should have seen this coming and perhaps not accepted the donations, particularly since they do, indeed, appear to have been made to grease the skids. The bottom line here will be that nothing was done illegally, however it will nonetheless leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

But let’s take a look at the reality of this deal and all that the right-wing media seems to be implying.

They allowed a US company to be bought by the Russians!

U1 was never a US company.  It was a Canadian company headquartered in Toronto with some US assets.

They’re sending 20% of our uranium to Russia!

First, U1 does not hold 20% of US uranium. U1 is the owner of the Willow Creek mine in Wyoming. Theoretically, U1 controls 20% of production capacity, not reserves. In 2014 it only produced 11% of US total production.  By 2016 the percentage of U1 production fell to 1.1% of total US production because its costs are not economic relative to world market prices.

But that’s only a piece of the puzzle.  Most people don’t realize that the US nuclear power industry mostly runs on foreign, imported uranium.  The chart below shows the annual consumption and percentage of that consumption that is foreign.  For the last 20 years US uranium purchases averaged 85% foreign origin. Why? Because US uranium deposits have never been cheap to mine; foreign sources, including Canada, are a lot cheaper. In 2016 about half of foreign uranium bought in the US came from Canada and Kazakhstan.


Second, under current law and the license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U1 is prohibited from exporting this uranium.  They would have to apply for an export license which, as you might gather, would be difficult to obtain. Bottom line- it all stays in country.

Where’s the beef?

Under any other circumstances this deal would be considered just one of many global transactions that happen to involve the US subsidiary of a foreign country, a transaction that ultimately had zero impact on US security of uranium supply, the industry as a whole and especially national security. Unfortunately, we now have the perfect storm of a) Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation name involvement; b) a low information audience; c) the need on the right for any handy topic to divert attention from more serious matters; and d) “journalists” manufacturing another “outrage” of little substance.

*Procrustes was a figure in Greek mythology who hijacked travelers and placed them in a bed, either stretching them or cutting off limbs to make them fit.


US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Materials License SUA-1341

Uranium Marketing Annual Reports (2000, 2001, 2008, 2016), US Energy Information Agency

“Does Russia Really Own 20% of The US’ Uranium Reserves?” retrieved 10/27/2017