Did Putin Snag US Uranium and Sell It to Iran?
Policy + Politics

Did Putin Snag US Uranium and Sell It to Iran?

At the National Review today, Jim Geraghty flags an odd exchange on Fox News last night, in which Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a member of both the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Foreign Relations Committee, appeared to allege that uranium mined in the United States has illegally been taken out of the country.

Barrasso went on to say that he is specifically concerned that the uranium may have been transported to Iran.

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The claim has particular political salience at the moment because of an investigative piece published by The New York Times on Thursday that showed the Clinton Foundation, run by former President Bill Clinton and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had accepted millions of dollars from foreign donors, including some in Russia, who were seeking the government’s approval of a deal that would transfer the rights to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium mines to a Russian-held company. 

Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time, and her department, as well as a number of other U.S. agencies, approved the deal. Multiple approvals were required because uranium is considered an asset with national security importance

Under the deal, Russian firm Rosatom took control of a Canadian company called Uranium One. This gave Rosatom control of uranium production facilities across the globe, including about one-fifth of the capacity in the United States. 

In an interview with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Barrasso said that he opposed the sale back in 2010, when it was first contemplated. And said, “Now you have [Russian President] Vladimir Putin owning 20 percent of American uranium – controlling that. And we know that Russia sends uranium to people who are not our friends, to our bitter enemies, including Iran.”

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At the time, Barrasso said, he was assured by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the Uranium would not leave the U.S.

In fact, we do know that uranium has left the United States, has gone overseas, and under the direction of Vladimir Putin.

Because of the importance of uranium to both national security and energy generation, uranium exports are tightly controlled. On Thursday, though, Barrasso claimed that that Rosatom is moving it out of the country without permission.

Van Susteren asked if the Nuclear Regulatory commission had granted an export license, and Barrasso said that it had not – he had asked the NRC to alert him if a license request was submitted. 

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Had there been such a request? 

“Not that I know, but I know that uranium has left the country. They have a number of different companies and shell organizations.” Barrasso said. “When you talk to people on the ground, uranium has left the United States. It has gone to Canada, has gone overseas.” 

Barrasso pointed out that the U.S. still has to import uranium to satisfy nuclear power generation needs. “I think there’s an issue of national security as well as energy security, and I worry about Iran getting this uranium,” he said.

Barrasso offered no proof to back up his claim, and Van Susteren asked for none.

This story has been updated to correct a reference to Sen. Barrasso's 2010 position regarding the sale of uranium rights to a Russian company.

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