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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U. S. May Slap Duty on Uranium

The future of the Commonwealth of Independent State's uranium production and enrichment industries are likely to be darkened after a U. S. Department of Commerce dumping decision is announced on Friday.

By definition, dumping is selling production below cost as a predatory means of gaining market share. Dumping charges usually must prove economic damage to local industry.

Both U. S. and Russian sources expect few surprises, given the largely mathematical process initiated last November, with anti-dumping duties as high as 117 percent expected for both the mined and enriched products.

"Despite the fact that the Russian delegation has made withdrawals and demonstrated flexibility, the position of the U. S. side is firm", said Albert Shishkin, president of Techsnabexport (TENEX), the former Soviet radioactive materials exporter that still holds a virtual monopoly in the former Soviet Union. "All we can say is we hope for a positive decision", he said.

That is unlikely, according to one U. S. lawyer who requested anonymity, given anti-dumping proceedings that are by nature impartial and inflexible, requiring strict calculations and adherence to formulas. The industry maintains that most export revenues derived from the industry are earmarked for investment in defense conversion, although some Western press reports have questioned this dedication.

Still, Shishkin notes $500 million in new planned investment in defense plants tied in part to uranium exports:

a toothpaste plant in Akhtau, Kazakhstan; a compact disc plant in Yekaterinburg, Russia; and an audio-video cassette tape plant in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in which BASF, the German chemical giant, will also invest.

Soviet shipments began in 1990, growing quickly after the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which defense cuts freed domestic supplies for world markets.

Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, which ship roughly $110 million worth of uranium annually to the United States, now command a 10 to 12 percent market share, and together they are ranked third among suppliers behind France and Canada.

Dumping duties would price Commonwealth uranium out of short-term spot contracts, although it could still compete on long-term, higher priced contracts, Shishkin said.

Maybe not for long, though. A free falling ruble has made enriched and mined uranium exports significantly cheaper. Thus, a certain Catch-22 exists.

While a new opportunity exists for Russian exporters, lower prices do nothing to support the country's claims that it is not dumping uranium.