Uranium Enrichment

U.S. Imports of Soviet Enriched Uranium Gao ID: RCED-90-70BR December 8, 1989

GAO reviewed U.S. utilities' use of Soviet uranium ore and enriched uranium, focusing on: (1) uranium imported into the United States; (2) whether utilities engaged in flag-swapping or other practices to conceal enriched uranium purchases; (3) the Soviet Union's enriched uranium trade policy and practices; (4) U.S. uranium import requirements; and (5) reasons that utilities give for cancelling Department of Energy (DOE) uranium enrichment contracts.

GAO found that: (1) since 1986, the United States has directly imported only small amounts of Soviet enriched uranium and no Soviet uranium ore; (2) increased Soviet sales to the European market have impacted the U.S. market through lowered prices and an estimated $260 million in lost sales since 1986; (3) there was no indication that U.S. utilities had engaged in flag-swapping or other activities to conceal enriched uranium purchases; (4) the Soviet Union did not publicize its uranium trade policies, but indicated a willingness to increase uranium sales to Western countries; (5) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stated that the Soviet Union requires only Finland and Eastern Bloc countries to return spent nuclear fuel; (6) any nuclear utility can import enriched uranium without a license after filing a report with DOE and NRC; and (7) U.S. utilities cited cheaper and more abundant uranium supplies, requirements to obtain the best available prices, and declining confidence in DOE enrichment capabilities as reasons for terminating DOE contracts.

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