The Biden administration reportedly is considering nuclear sanctions on Russia
As Western nations look for ways to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, another aspect of the Ukraine crisis has received less attention: Most of the 32 countries that use nuclear power rely on Russia for some part of their supply chain.
Nuclear power is a critical part of many national electricity grids. The economic fallout from the war in Ukraine could disrupt access to fuel for the nuclear power industry. We believe that countering Russia’s influence will require concerted efforts that balance energy security, climate mitigation and a commitment to international law.
The Biden administration reportedly is considering nuclear sanctions on Russia. US utilities oppose this step for fear that it would make uranium fuel scarcer and more expensive. Many US nuclear plants are already struggling economically.
If Russia retaliates against Western pressure by withholding converted or enriched uranium, we estimate that plants in the US and Europe could be affected within 18 to 24 months, based on the amount of advanced notice required for fuel orders. Some US utilities have said they do not expect shortages, but the opacity of the market and long time frames make this hard to predict. Utilities will face higher prices if they turn to Europe, Japan or China for uranium conversion or enrichment services.
Rather than focusing on domestic uranium mining, we see it as a higher priority for the US to reconsider its enrichment capabilities and policies.