October 16, 2019 / 7:08 PM / a month ago

U.S. energy secretary says cabinet-level group will boost domestic uranium mining

WASHINGTON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Wednesday he believes a cabinet-level working group set up by President Donald Trump will make recommendations that will revive domestic mining of uranium for nuclear power plants.

Separately, Perry declined to say, through a spokeswoman, if he would cooperate with three U.S. House committees that asked him to turn over documents by Friday in their impeachment probe of Trump.

When asked whether the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, which Trump set up in July, would produce recommendations that adequately boost the industry, Perry told reporters. “I do.” Formation of the group followed Trump’s rejection of quotas for domestic uranium production.

“I think the challenge has always been to keep a uranium mining industry that was viable in U.S. and dealing with a global market place,” Perry, a member of the working group, said in a conference call.

Trump postponed the deadline for the group’s recommendations for 30 days, the Commerce Department confirmed on Wednesday. The group’s recommendations had been due on Oct. 10, and the delay occurred after Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, who had co-chaired the working group, stepped down from the White House.

The U.S. uranium industry, which is struggling with foreign competition, hopes the working group comes up with a basket of recommendations to revive it. One of those could be authorizing funds through the 1950 Defense Production Act to procure domestic fuel for defense requirements and boost federal reserves of uranium for nuclear power utilities.

But some experts question the necessity of such a measure. A group of nuclear and non-proliferation experts said the U.S. stockpile of uranium for naval submarine and ship reactors will last into the 2060s. The statement came in a letter this month to the working group’s co-chairs, Robert O’Brien, Trump’s current national security adviser, and Larry Kudlow, his chief economic adviser.

NO WORD ON SUBPOENA

When asked whether Perry would comply with subpoenas from three U.S. House committees last week asking for documents, Perry spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said he would not address the question. The lawmakers want Perry to turn over documents on any role he played in President Donald Trump’s effort to get Ukraine’s president to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Perry told Fox Business earlier on Wednesday that White House and Energy Department lawyers were reviewing the House request for documents and “I’m going to follow the lead of my counsel on that.”

Perry will travel to Brussels on Saturday for talks about advancing new nuclear energy technologies known as small modular reactors. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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