DOE unveils process for Russian LEU import waivers

23 May 2024

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued details of the process for obtaining waivers to allow the import of limited quantities of Russian-origin low-enriched uranium (LEU) to ensure US nuclear plants do not experience supply disruptions when the recently signed prohibition law comes into force.

(Image: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month and will go into effect on 11 August. The ban runs until the end of 2040, but the DOE may waive the ban, under certain conditions, to allow the import of limited amounts of material up until 1 January 2028.

The process released by the DOE allows the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce, to grant a waiver to an importer for specified quantities of Russian LEU if it is determined that no alternative viable source of LEU is available to sustain the continued operation of a nuclear reactor or a US nuclear energy company; or the importation of Russian LEU is in the national interest.

According to the DOE, an import could be in the national interest if it meets one of the following criteria:  

  • The import is necessary to maintain the viability of a US nuclear energy company that is critical to the US nuclear energy fuel supply chain.
  • The import is intended to support an existing arrangement to provide fuel for a nuclear power plant in another country and thus minimise the likelihood of that country seeking a non-US fuel supplier.

Waivers will only be granted for a limited amount of material: 476,536 kg in calendar year 2024; falling to 470,376 kg in 2025; 464,183 kg in 2026 and 459,083 in 2027.

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Russian state-owned uranium supplier Tenex had sent a notice of force majeure to its US customers giving them 60 days to obtain a waiver. According to that report, Tenex - part of Rosatom - has said it intends to honour its contractual commitments, although delivery schedules could need to be renegotiated for utilities that do not have waivers in place within 60 days.

The full waiver procedure and requirements are available on the DOE website.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News