The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the license transfer of two Wyoming mines to a Russian company, despite concerns over national security raised by local and national government officials including senior House Republicans.
From the Telegram:
Two uranium mines in Wyoming are on their way to control by a Russian company now that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved transferring the mines' licenses.
The NRC last week approved the license transfer to a Russian company known as ARMZ which expects to obtain a controlling interest in Canadian-owned Uranium One by year's end. Uranium One holds the licenses for a proposed uranium mine and an existing uranium mine in northeast Wyoming.
The approval comes despite concerns from local and national lawmakers. Bother groups worry that Wyoming's uranium could in theory go overseas and serve against U.S. interests.
"The administration must maintain rigorous oversight of this project and ensure this transaction does not undercut America's national or energy security," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said through a spokeswoman Tuesday.
In October, four U.S. House members sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to block the sale of the two Wyoming mines, citing national security concerns. According to the Wyoming Business Journal, "the sale would give the Russians control of up to 20 percent of the U.S. national uranium extraction capability along with a controlling interest in one of the nation's largest uranium mining sites."
The Republican representatives who sent the letter inclue: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida (the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee); Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama (the ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee); Rep. Peter T. King of New York (the ranking minority member of the House Homeland Security Committee), and Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California (the ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee).
Both Republicans Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis, from Wyoming, expressed concerns and promised to keep an eye on the deal, the Associated Press reports. In response, the NRC said the Russian company would have to apply for a special license to export uranium.
Still, exporting is possible, and considering the ownership make up of Uranium One and ARMZ, any national secuirity concerns are not unfounded. According to World Nuclear News, Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom received "356 million common shares in Uranium One" in a recent deal. And the Gillette News Record reports ARMZ is "controlled by" Rosatom.
Why should that cause concern? According to the Record, Rosatom "has provided Iran with uranium in the past."
"The NRC paperwork states that the transfer means the Russian president and the government of the Russian Federation have the power to direct corporate policy and therefore direct activities under the NRC license and license applications for the Wyoming facilities," the Record says.
These ties make a recent warning from Russian President Vladamir Putin even more ominous. Speaking with Larry King on Wednesday, the Russian leader advised the U.S. "don’t interfere either [with] the sovereign choice of the Russian people":
"When we are talking with our American friends and tell them, there are systemic problems in this regard, we can hear from them ‘Don’t interfere with our affairs. This is our tradition and it’s going to continue like that.’ We are not interfering,” he said. “But to our colleagues, I would also like to advise you, don’t interfere either [with] the sovereign choice of the Russian people." [Emphasis added]