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It always amazes me how false legends get created, and soon, without any facts, they are cemented in everyone’s minds, the details get lost, and they become widely believed, even without evidence.
So it is with the Uranium One story, which is making the rounds again, thanks to a Tweet last week from the President who said, “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”
And so we have this false legend, already solidifying in people’s minds that Hillary Clinton sold off a large chunk of America’s uranium to Russia, probably in exchange for an enormous bribe to the Clinton Foundation. Because, when it comes to Hillary Clinton, people will believe almost anything. Look, I don’t like Hillary Clinton either, but the real stuff is bad enough, we don’t need to make up anything extra.
Now, there was a Russian bribery story involving uranium, but you have to go beyond the headlines to find the details. It involved a Russian named Vadim Mikerin. But the bribes weren’t paid by Russians to Americans, it was the other way around. Kickbacks were paid by an American trucking company to Russians get no-bid contracts to ship uranium. And the “scandal” is that the FBI allegedly kept this secret while the Uranium One deal was being approved.
So what is the Uranium One deal? It involves Willow Creek, a uranium mine in Wyoming. I keep seeing it reported (uncritically) that Willow Creek produces 20% of American uranium, but that’s not accurate. The amount varies from year to year, but in 2011-2016, Willow Creek put out less than 5% of us US domestic Uranium production capacity. And while I can’t pin it down, Willow Creek sits on something like 4% of US reserves.
However, the thing to understand is that the US doesn’t produce that much uranium. Only about 11% of the uranium delivered to American power plants is produced domestically. The rest, 89% comes from foreign sources. Who sells us uranium? A quarter of it comes from Canada, 24% from Kazakhstan, 20% from Australia, and the rest comes from a slew of other countries from Namibia to China. Oh, and we get 14% out of Russia.
Why do the Russians sell us uranium? Well, they used to sell us even more. We had a 20-year agreement that finished in 2013 known as the Megatons to Megawatts Program. The Russians sold us surplus uranium from retired nuclear weapons that had been blended down to low enrichment for use in our power plants. The truth is that they can sell us uranium because they have more of it than they’ll ever need. (I’ve heard it suggested, but couldn’t track it down, that transporting this uranium was what the Mikerin bribery deal was about.)
Okay, so the Willow Creek mine was bought by a Canadian company called Uranium One, which, like lots of other companies, ran into financial problems in 2009. At that time, Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy company, through a subsidiary, bought part of the company. They bought the rest in 2010.
A purchase like that requires approval from the US government, specifically something called the CFIUS as well as from the NRC, plus Canadian and Kazakh regulators. What is CFIUS? It’s the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. It is made up of representatives from 16 US agencies and departments, including the Commerce Department, DHS, DOD, and the State Department. They approved the Uranium One sale.
There’s no evidence that Hillary Clinton was involved or even knew. The State Department has a seat on the CFIUS committee, but even if they bribed Hillary Clinton to get this deal though, and Clinton ordered her CFIUS representative to approve the deal, there’s 15 other agencies that make up the committee, plus the NRC, plus Canadian regulators.
Nor is there evidence that Uranium One bribed anyone. They wouldn’t need to. The sale of Uranium One was not controversial because even if this was some nefarious Russian plot to steal America’s uranium, they’d still need a license to export it. The closest thing that anyone has found was a small donation to the Clinton Foundation in 2007, but in terms of bribing Hillary Clinton to approve the deal, the timeline doesn’t work. (This is not to say that Hillary Clinton is clean, she’s obviously as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. But as I said above, the real stuff is bad enough, we don’t need to make up anything extra.)
To recap: This was a foreign purchase of an American uranium mine that produces a small amount of the uranium the US uses. None of the uranium has been exported. None of it can be exported. We don’t need it because we can buy it from elsewhere. The Russians don’t need it because they have a surplus. And even if anybody did, nobody would care because this is a tiny amount of uranium.
So no, Hillary Clinton didn’t steal America’s vital uranium and sell it to the Ruskies. And no, the “Fake Media” isn’t covering it up. This whole Uranium One business is a non-story. Which makes you wonder why Donald Trump is bringing it up.