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H.R. 1351 (117th): Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act


The chemical symbol for uranium is “U,” but reactions to this bill have ranged from “A” to “F.”

Context

Uranium is responsible for about 10 percent of the world’s electricity production. Proponents cite it as an effective and extremely low-emission energy source. Detractors cite its potential for radioactive fallout such as in Japan’s Fukushima incident of 2011, which can be devastating due to long lasting health and ecological effects. However, such incidents — while certainly headline-grabbing — are actually extremely rare.

The U.S. produces relatively little uranium domestically, contributing only about 9 percent of its own supply. The rest is imported, with the top five countries being Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, and Australia.

And that 9 percent level might soon decrease even further. In February, the House passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which would permanently ban more than 1 million acres in the Grand Canyon from future mining, including for uranium. The provision, included as part of the larger Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act passed by 227–200 on an almost entirely party-line vote. (It awaits a potential vote in the Senate.)

What the bill does

The Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act would establish a national uranium reserve, similar to the government’s 714 million barrel storage capacity Strategic Petroleum Reserve, located in Texas and Louisiana.

It was introduced in the House on February 25 as H.R. 1351, by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH5).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill would increase American energy independence and decrease carbon emissions, in contrast to more polluting energy sources such as coal and oil.

“The United States has fallen behind in the competitive development of nuclear energy, and now, we rely heavily on foreign sources of uranium,” Rep. Latta said in a press release. “In order to avoid threats to our nuclear supply chain, we need to build up our domestic uranium mining, production, and conversion by establishing a uranium reserve. The Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act would establish a domestic uranium reserve that will result in lower carbon emissions, new jobs and economic growth, and a more secure world.”

“It is troubling that the House is expected to vote on a natural resource bill this week that would further restrict uranium mining in the United States,” Rep. Latta continued, referencing that week’s vote on the Grand Canyon provision. “This would be another disappointing setback for our domestic energy production and security. Instead, we need to be boosting our domestic energy supply in order to make the United States more energy secure and independent.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that the establishment of a uranium reserve — or more broadly, the continuation of domestic uranium mining in general — is bad both environmentally and economically.

“Trade restrictions, uranium subsidies, and artificial demand can make bad policy, a view shared across the political spectrum,” a coalition of dozens of environmental and advocacy organizations wrote in a 2020 letter to Congress. “Protections for iconic American landscapes like Bears Ears and the Grand Canyon enjoy bipartisan support. Both of these sites are sacred to several Native peoples.”

“And yet, the [proposal for a uranium reserve] lines the pockets of foreign mining companies,” the letter continued. “It reinforces [the Trump] Administration’s controversial decision to add uranium to its list of so-called critical minerals. This request also lays bare the toxic waste legacy left from uranium mining.”

Odds of passage

Rep. Latta’s prior 2020 version attracted four cosponsors, all Republicans. It never received a vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

His current version has attracted a slightly higher seven cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Last updated Mar 18, 2021. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 14, 2022.


Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act

This bill directs the Department of Energy to establish and operate a uranium reserve to ensure the availability of uranium mined in the United States in the event of a market disruption and support strategic fuel cycle capabilities in the United States.

Uranium that is mined in the United States by an entity that is owned or controlled by Russia or the People's Republic of China or is incorporated in either country must be excluded from the reserve.