Media

WaPo’s Uranium One Fact Check Makes Absolutely No Sense

The Washington Post tried and failed to refute the veracity of a key detail at the center of the coverage surrounding the Uranium One deal in a fact check published Tuesday.

The article takes issue with Fox News’ coverage of the merger deal between a Canadian mining company and the Russian energy giant Rosatom, specifically challenging the claim that the deal gave the state owned Russian firm access to 20 percent of U.S. uranium.

The “fact check” hinges on a distinction between the quantity of uranium drilling licenses available in 2010 relative to the number of licenses currently available. In 2010 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimated that the merger gave Rosatom access to “approximately 20 percent of the currently licensed uranium in-situ recovery production capacity.” In an attempt to refute this point, WaPo points out that due to the increase in uranium drilling facilities since the deal was approved, the licenses gained by Rosatom no longer represents 20 percent of available U.S. uranium.

“The NRC has licensed additional in-situ uranium facilities since the 20-percent figure was estimated (and it was an estimate),” an NRC spokesman said in an email. “Our current estimate would be closer to 10 percent.”

This is a transparent attempt to downplay the implications of the deal. At the time, the merger gave the Russian firm access to roughly 20 percent of available U.S. uranium. Of course that static number has decreased as a percentage of the total available supply as more facilities are licensed, but that has no bearing on the gravity of the deal when it was inked.

The fact checker attempts to further obscure the weight of the evidence by suggesting that regardless of the percentage of U.S. uranium that Rosatom gained access to, they were unable to export that uranium because they lack the requisite license.

This argument fails to stand up to the lightest scrutiny. Soon after the parameters of the Uranium One deal were exposed, the New York Times reported that Uranium One “yellow cake,” which refers to the raw product extracted from the ground and later refined, was routinely exported to a processing plant in Canada.

Rosatom circumvented the regulations surrounding uranium export by contracting a trucking firm,┬áRSB Logistic Services, that did hold an export license. A commission spokesman told TheNYTimes that “to the best of our knowledge” most of the exported uranium was returned to the U.S., but the spokesman made no assurances.

Admittedly, the fact check makes a useful distinction between the totality of U.S. uranium deposits and the quantity of available uranium, which fluctuates based on the number of licensed extraction facilities. The merger did not give Rosatom access to 20 percent of U.S. uranium deposits, rather it gave them access to 20 percent of available U.S. uranium. This is merely a technicality, and a distinction without a difference, since many uranium deposits remain untouched because no extraction facility can legally make use of them, making their existence immaterial to the issue of outsized Russian control of U.S. resources.

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