Lummis Examines Energy Department Uranium Transfers

(County 10, May 3) – U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, Chairman of Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on the Interior, held a hearing recently to investigate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) uranium sales used to fund the cleanup of federal nuclear enrichment sites.

In a news release, her office criticized the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Energy for reportedly flooding the market with excess federal uranium, which she said disrupts to the market and harms the industry.

“The DOE’s uranium transfers have hurt Wyoming’s uranium industry, deprived the American people of the best value for these assets, and bypassed Congress’ control of the purse,” said Chairman Lummis.  “For too long, the Department has abused this asset, using shady contracts to generate quick cash without regard for the taxpayer or the American men and women working in the uranium industry.  We aren’t going to lessen our almost 90 percent reliance on foreign uranium so long as DOE uses the uranium inventory as a slush fund and ignores their legal obligation not to disrupt the market.  Wyoming is home to massive deposits of uranium that can help wean us off foreign sources if the federal government would stop standing in the way.  I was pleased to work in a bipartisan fashion today to shed much-needed light on this troubled program, which is in dire need of reform.”

Her complete statement is below:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing of the Subcommittee on Interior of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Our purpose today is to examine the Department of Energy’s management of the U.S. excess uranium inventories.  This is uranium of varying grades owned by the federal government that has been declared surplus to the national security needs of the United States.  This uranium has significant value.  Selling it generates revenue for the Federal Government, and displaces uranium produced by private industry in the marketplace.

“The Department of Energy’s management of this uranium has prompted questions by the domestic uranium industry as well as the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.  The GAO found that the Department of Energy failed to consistently value uranium it transferred to third parties in exchange for other services.  The GAO found that other transfers violated the Miscellaneous Receipts statute, which requires government officials who receive money on the government’s behalf to deposit those funds with the Treasury except where otherwise provided by law.  By not depositing an amount equal to the value of the uranium into the Treasury, DOE has inappropriately circumvented the power of the purse granted to Congress under the Constitution.

“Further the GAO found that the Department of Energy’s studies to assess the market impact of proposed uranium transfers as required by the USEC Privatization Act of 1996 failed to show quality assurance guidance to provide detail about the data, methodology, and assumptions made in studies and had other shortcomings. So this raised questions as to the validity of the conclusion that proposed transfers would have no adverse material impact on the domestic uranium industries.  The domestic uranium industry plays an important role in ensuring America is not completely dependent on foreign sources of energy, particularly in the area of uranium where we actually import about 90% of the uranium that we use here.  Completely unnecessary to do so.  While I note that the DOE is in the process of revising its procedures to determine the market impact of proposed transfers of excess uranium, it’s important to discuss previous problems to ensure they are not repeated.

“Today we will hear from the GAO to discuss their reports. We will also hear from the Department of Energy to learn more about their management of excess uranium and their response to the GAO.  Finally we will hear from a representative of the domestic uranium industry to discuss how these transfers have affected the industry.  A representative of Fluor-B&W Portsmouth, who is the DOE contractor for cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio was invited to the hearing to discuss the importance of the cleanup that some of the transfers have funded, but was unable to attend.  I look forward to hearing the panel discuss ways that the Excess Uranium Management can be improved to eliminate legal concerns and ensure the best value for the taxpayer while not disrupting the domestic uranium industry and continue to meet DOE’s obligation to clean up its legacy sites.”

Original story here.