Sen. John Barrasso started a probe Monday into a Russian-owned uranium firm in his home state of Wyoming, which he says the Obama administration misled him about the company's ability to export nuclear fuel.
Barrasso, the Republican chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki, informing them that he is expanding a 2010 investigation into the Obama administration’s approval of the sale of Uranium One’s uranium recovery facilities to the Russian state-owned firm Atomredmetzoloto, or ARMZ.
Barrasso is following up on reports that showed Uranium One exported fuel through Canada while not holding a specific export license given to it by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The letter said that on March 21, 2011, former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko responded to his letter on behalf of former President Barack Obama, stating: "At this time, neither Uranium One Inc. nor ARMZ holds a specific NRC export license."
Jaczko explained that for the company to export uranium, either Uranium One or ARMZ "would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use in reactor fuel," according to the Barrasso letter.
Recent reporting showed that the company exported fuel without the necessary licenses. The Russian government reportedly purchased the company to help it dominate the global uranium market.
It began moving unlicensed uranium exports in 2012 by "piggy-backing" on an export license held by the shipping firm RSB Logistic Services Inc., according to Barrasso's letter. He said he believes the Obama administration misled him about the role of the Energy Department in nuclear fuel shipments.
The NRC issues export licenses for shipping uranium out of the country, but the Energy Department has the role of tracking cross-border shipments and their final destinations.
“While the NRC controls exports from the U.S., it does not have any control over subsequent exports once uranium is outside the U.S. border," the letter read. "The DOE is integral to the decision-making process regarding any subsequent exports."
"Reporting by the Casper Star Tribune shows that, upon receipt of my letter to President Obama, the White House forwarded the letter to the DOE which then referred this matter to the NRC stating: ‘Because the subject of the letter does not fall within the purview of the Department of Energy, we are forwarding the letter to your agency.’ By stating DOE had no role in the matter, the DOE concealed the possibility of subsequent exports and their responsibility in reviewing them,” according to the letter.
Barrasso wants both agencies to submit all documents related to communications between the Obama administration and Russia regarding the sale of the U.S. uranium firm in Wyoming, along with any correspondence related to lawful international agreements between the countries on civilian uses of uranium for nuclear power.
Barrasso's office told the Washington Examiner that the chairman will use a hearing on Wednesday on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's budget and priorities to discuss the letter.
"This hearing is an opportunity for senators to ask questions of the NRC commissioners on policy, financial, and management issues related to the agency," according to an aide. "Chairman Barrasso will use the hearing to ensure the commissioners have seen his letter and will reply in a timely fashion."
Svinicki will be joined by her fellow commissioners at the hearing.