Trump Wants Tariffs On Uranium, Nuclear Reactors From China

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Trump administration has proposed slapping retaliatory tariffs on 1,300 Chinese imports in response to the country’s continued theft of intellectual property from U.S. companies.

That lists includes, steel and metals used in oil and gas pipelines as well as nuclear materials and reactors for power plants. The proposed tariffs would impact $50 billion worth of imports, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

Trump has a more aggressive stance on trade with China than his predecessors, arguing the gaping trade deficit with the Asian giant needs to be closed. Trump also criticized China’s theft of intellectual property.

Now, Trump is targeting nuclear energy industry imports from China, including uranium (U-235), reactor components and machinery to separate isotopes. The U.S. gets a very small percentage of its uranium from China, so the tariffs in this area probably won’t have much effect.

What could upset the U.S. nuclear industry is retaliation from China, which is planning to build at least 100 nuclear plants through 2030 to reduce its reliance on coal power. China is largely dependent on foreign imports of uranium and equipment to build nuclear plants.

China is trying to become more self-sufficient in nuclear technology, but “ample opportunities exist for U.S. industry, including fuel cycle, nuclear components, and services related to nuclear power in China,” according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

U.S. companies supplied China with about 30 percent of its enriched uranium imports in 2015, according to government data.

Republicans and conservative groups have largely come out against Trump’s proposed tariffs, arguing they would only spark a trade war with China. Indeed, China released a list of 106 U.S. products it would raise tariffs on in response to the Trump administration’s proposal.

“China’s latest retaliatory actions against the Trump administration’s unilateral tariffs are entirely predictable,” Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately for American businesses and consumers, this is likely only the beginning,” Scribner said. “The White House’s slipshod protectionism ironically provides China cover for its unfair trade practices by short-circuiting the World Trade Organization’s dispute resolution process.”

Here’s are the Chinese nuclear energy imports Trump proposed taxing:

Thorium compounds

Compounds of uranium depleted in U235

Uranium depleted in U235, thorium; alloys, dispersions, ceramic products and mixtures of these products and their compounds

Isotopes not in heading 2844 and their compounds other than heavy water

Nuclear reactors

Machinery and apparatus for isotopic separation, and parts thereof

Parts of nuclear reactors

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