Secretary Spencer Abraham is the former US Secretary of Energy (2001-2005) and US Senator from Michigan (1995-2001). He is also non-executive Chairman of Uranium Energy Corp. His recent Fox News op-ed details the national security threat posed by Russian control of the United States’ uranium supply, which is the subject of a Commerce Department 232 investigation currently being reviewed by President Trump.
John: Good morning, America. This is the Cats Roundtable. John Catsimatidis here.
John: Sunday morning, we have on with us a former Senator from the state of Michigan, Spencer Abraham. Also, Secretary of Energy during George W. Bush times from 2001 to 2005. Good morning, Senator, how are you?
Spencer Abraham: Great, John. Good to be with you.
John: Now, you wrote an op-ed piece very recently on uranium, and how none of the uranium we use in our aircraft carriers, or nuclear subs, is in our possession and we have to buy this from foreign countries. Tell us about that.
Spencer Abraham: Right.
Spencer Abraham: Well, one of the real national security threats I think America faces going forward is that so much of the uranium we use in the United States to run our nuclear power plants and facilities has to be imported today.
Spencer Abraham: When we were importing oil, more than 60% of the oil was imported, we all recognized that we were at the mercy of foreign exporters. With uranium, 98% of the uranium used at our nuclear power plants and so on comes from imports. If the countries we import from, which are places like Russia, and Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, and others. If we had geopolitical issues with those countries, we’d be at a very serious problem.
Spencer Abraham: What we need is to revitalize the domestic uranium producing industries so that we’re in a position to take care of our own needs and not have to be dependent.
John: Now, there’s a big controversy going on in our country that … Did we have some uranium that we sold off in Canada? Or, did we … What was that story all about?
Spencer Abraham: No, no. The real story is that for years, the US mining industry produced our own uranium in sufficient quantities to meet our national demand. Then, slowly but surely that industry has basically been idled.
Spencer Abraham: What’s happened is that countries that have state-supported uranium mining companies, like Russia, like Kazakhstan, are flooding the market with cheap uranium, way below the market price so that the American companies can no longer make money in a free market system operating. They’ve had to idle their plants.
Spencer Abraham: What it’s meant is that US utilities are buying the uranium that comes from these imports and the US production, which could take care of our needs, is no longer operating. Unless we get it up and operating again, we’re going to find ourselves forced to by uranium from people that are not necessarily our friends. In many cases, where there’s geopolitical issues that could come back to really hurt us.
John: Do we have uranium that we’re just not mining?
Spencer Abraham: Yes. We have lots of it. We have estimates of huge quantities. In fact, just a couple of decades ago, we were mining it and producing enough for our own use. As the market changed, and the state-owned companies started flooding it, it turns out that’s essentially sort of stopped our domestic industry. The global uranium price has come down so much.
Spencer Abraham: After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the price started falling and then the market got flooded. These US companies have just not been able to make money. They’ve had to stop working and no longer producing. We’ve got the uranium, it’s there. We just can’t … Our companies can’t make money producing it unless the market price goes back to a normal level, or we do something about it.
John: Now, you’re a former Secretary of Energy. Isn’t it a national security item that the Government says, okay, we’ll subsidize you because we need our own uranium?
Spencer Abraham: Yeah. There’s a petition under the Department of Congress’ export administration. One of the things it does is monitor national security concerns. In fact, they just finished a review of this exact issue and have submitted their findings, although they’re not yet public, to the White House. They’ve looked at this issue.
Spencer Abraham: If the White House, who has final say, decides that, in fact, this is a national security threat that requires action, they could impose quotas which would force American companies to have to buy some American uranium. That would give the domestic industry a shot in the arm. It’s tragic that we’ve allowed ourselves to blow up a domestic industry the way we have, and at the same time, we’ve encouraged all this foreign importation because that’s really putting us in a national security vulnerability.
John: Well, especially our Department of Defense, for our nuclear carriers and our nuclear subs.
Spencer Abraham: Yes. Yeah, yeah. We’re near the point where we don’t have enough stockpile left of US uranium to take care of our national defense needs.
Spencer Abraham: Remember this, John. 20% of the energy, the electricity in this country, is generated by nuclear power plants. If those plants couldn’t get their access to uranium, we’d really be in a fix. That’s why we really need action on this topic.
John: Now, you were Secretary of Energy for four years. Did you ever dream that the United States would be self-sufficient in oil production, and possibly be an exporter?
Spencer Abraham: No. I’ve got to be honest with you, John. When I was Energy Secretary, it looked like we were going to be forced to import large amounts of oil for as far as the eye could see. My only regret is that I had to be secretary when we were mainly importing, instead of exporting. I think the current Secretary, Rick Perry, they’re in a good time. Now the tables have turned and American oil production is now greater than anybody in the world, and growing, and going to continue to grow. It’s an exciting change, and one that we did not foresee.
John: What else do you think the American people deserve to know, that they would have to look on page 49 in the newspaper to find out?
Spencer Abraham: Well, I’ve talked about the uranium imports, I think that’s a big issue.
Spencer Abraham: I think another issue that Americans need to be keeping their eye on is whether or not, as we are producing more oil and natural gas and so on, we have the infrastructure in place, the pipelines, and so on, to get the oil and the gas to where it needs to get. In some cases, we’re getting it to port so that it can be exported and help our balance of payments, and help build our energy sector further, or just to get it to refineries.
Spencer Abraham: One of the challenges we’ve had is that the people who are opposed to all forms of energy, it seems, have tried to use … by impeding infrastructure building, that’s another way to keep the oil or the gas in the ground. I think we need to have regulations that are realistic, not ones that just basically prevent us from getting these important, vital resources to where they need to be.
John: Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, is rumored to say that he’s moving on. Would you be interested in the job?
Spencer Abraham: John, it’s a great job. In my opinion, the most underrated job in the cabinet. A wonderful department that oversees the national science labs, and the national nuclear security administration, that is the care and maintenance of our nuclear weapons. I was fortunate and proud of the chance that I had to run the department, but I think they need to find new blood, and get someone else today. The job itself is great, but I had my chance.
Spencer Abraham: If, in fact, Secretary Perry decides to retire, probably there’s some real talent out there and I’m sure they’ll find it.
John: Well, former Secretary Spencer Abraham, thank you so much for coming on our show and telling the American people the truth. God bless you.
Spencer Abraham: Thank you, John. By the way, you’ve got a lot of background in energy, so I may, if there is a vacancy, I may put your name in for that job. Let me know.
John: Thank you.
Spencer Abraham: Good to be with you, sir.
John: We’ll catch up soon.
John: This is the Cats Roundtable, we’ll be right back.
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