Uranium is a silvery-white metal with unique nuclear properties. The main non-military use of uranium is as a fuel for nuclear power plants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nuclear power plants process a specific type of uranium known as U-235 as fuel because its atoms are split apart relatively easily.
US import data presented below is separated into two distinct forms. Enriched U-235 uranium is recorded under six-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code 284420 in contrast to 284410 for natural uranium and its compounds.
Of the $2.1 billion in American uranium imports during 2018, 81.4% ($1.7 billion) was for international purchases of enriched uranium. That percentage compares to 18.6% ($397.7 million) for imported natural uranium and related compounds.
Countries Exporting Uranium to America
Below are the 12 countries from which the United States purchased $1.7 billion in enriched U-235 uranium during 2018. The US cut back on its enriched uranium imports by -26% since 2014.
- Russia: US$666.3 million (38.3% of US enriched uranium imports)
- Netherlands: $449.6 million (25.9%)
- Germany: $287.4 million (16.5%)
- United Kingdom: $252.4 million (14.5%)
- China: $60.3 million (3.5%)
- Japan: $17.8 million (1.0%)
- Kazakhstan: $3.4 million (0.2%)
- Canada: $428,000 (0.02%)
- Sweden: $329,000 (0.02%)
- Belgium: $52,000 (0.003%)
- France: $12,000 (0.001%)
- Australia: $8,000 (0.0005%)
Four countries boosted their sales of enriched uranium to America from 2014 to 2018, namely Canada (up 625.4%), Australia (up 100%), Germany (up 37.1%) and Japan (up 14.5%).
Leading the decliners over the 5-year period were France (down -99.98%) trailed by Kazakhstan (down -82.1%), China (down -67.5%) then the United Kingdom (down -47.5%).
Below are the 7 countries from which the United States bought $397.7 million worth of natural uranium including its compounds during 2018. America boosted its natural uranium imports by 50.8% since 2014.
- Canada: US$369.9 million (93% of US natural uranium imports)
- Kazakhstan: $18.9 million (4.8%)
- South Africa: $7.7 million (1.9%)
- Japan: $1.1 million (0.3%)
- South Korea: $37,000 (0.01%)
- France: $12,000 (0.003%)
- United Kingdom: $9,000 (0.002%)
Fastest-growing among suppliers of natural uranium to America from 2014 to 2018 were the United Kingdom (up 350%) trailed by Canada (up 58.3%) then South Africa (up 31.4%).
In contrast, South Korea’s exports of natural uranium to the US in 2018 fell in value by -88.8% since 2014.
America does produce and sell its own uranium on international markets. In 2018, the United States shipped $132.4 million worth of enriched uranium to its trade partners plus another $253.3 million of natural uranium.
However, American revenues from exported enriched uranium fall far short of the $1.7 billion that the US spent on imported enriched uranium thus resulting in a -$1.6 billion product category deficit in 2018. Similarly, America shipped $253.3 million worth of natural uranium compared to $397.7 million in US imports of natural uranium thus generating America’s -$144.4 million negative trade balance for natural uranium in 2018.
Below you will find the 8 countries that caused America’s country-specific deficits from buying and selling enriched uranium on international markets, incurring a subtotal deficit of -$1.7 billion for 2018.
- Russia: US-$666.3 million (product deficit down -25% since 2014)
- Netherlands: -$447.3 million (down -5%)
- Germany: -$287.4 million (up 45.5%)
- United Kingdom: -$251.3 million (down -42.2%)
- China: -$60.3 million (down -67.5%)
- Canada: -$383,000 (reversing a $1.9 million surplus)
- Sweden: -$329,000 (reversing an $18.1 million surplus)
- Australia: -$8,000 (up 100.0%)
The following 5 trade partners created a subtotal US deficit totaling -$375.7 million during 2018 specifically for natural uranium.
- Canada: -US$349.1 million (product deficit up 88.5% since 2014)
- Kazakhstan: -$18.9 million (2014 data unavailable)
- South Africa: -$7.7 million (up 31.3%)
- South Korea: -$20,000 (down -87%)
- France: -$9,000 (reversing a $5,000 surplus)
See also US Iron and Steel Imports by Supplier Countries, America’s Top Trading Partners, United States Top 10 Imports and US Aluminum Imports by Supplying Country
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U.S. Energy Information Administration, Nuclear Explained: Where Our Uranium Comes From, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 14, 2019
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