Ending Dependence on Russia’s Nuclear Sector

February 18, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Global Tags: RussiaNuclear EnergySanctionsJoe BidenEuropean Union

Ending Dependence on Russia’s Nuclear Sector

An American ban on business with Rosatom would send domestic and foreign nuclear suppliers a strong market signal.


Nearly two years after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia’s state-run nuclear conglomerate, the Rosatom Corporation, raked in $14 billion dollars in annual revenue in 2023. U.S. and European purchases of Russian nuclear commodities likely amounted to over $2 billion of this total. This is unacceptable.

The Biden administration must take the lead on banning such imports and threaten sanctions against foreign entities that do business with Moscow’s nuclear sector. If the administration fails to act, the Kremlin will continue earning billions of dollars in annual revenue via such exports, undermining the West’s goal of helping Ukraine defeat Russia.


 The Biden administration has yet to sanction Russia’s nuclear sector because U.S. nuclear utilities remain partially dependent on Russian imports. Only in February 2023 did the administration begin sanctioning a handful of related entities and individuals. While Congress has introduced a number of bills aimed at curtailing nuclear imports from Russia, it has failed to sign any into law.

American efforts to reduce or end U.S. imports of Russian nuclear commodities are progressing but slowly. Thanks in part to increased focus from Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy is quietly advising U.S. nuclear utilities to prepare for a wind-down and, ultimately, a ban on Russian nuclear imports.

Some sectors of the U.S. nuclear industry are generally supportive of a well-orchestrated ban that entails waivers over a multi-year period and gradual wind-downs of imports of Russian commodities such as uranium, converted uranium, and enriched uranium that fuel American nuclear reactors. Others, however, are more tepid or flatly openly oppose a ban, needing time to scale up domestic production and identify reliable foreign alternatives.

The United States is not alone in continuing to fund Russia’s nuclear sector. The European Union has been unable to agree to a ban on Russian nuclear imports, even with a phased-in approach. Europe’s ongoing dependence on Moscow, Hungarian opposition, and French desire to maintain some ties remain key obstacles. Numerous other countries have continued or increased nuclear purchases from Russia in light of the war.

Russia has enjoyed an enormous global nuclear market share over the past two decades, in part due to low price-fixing. Western countries have also planned poorly or have not prioritized maintaining their robust nuclear energy supply lines. For example, the United States allowed domestic uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment sectors to deteriorate or close down entirely, requiring Washington to support new initiatives to restore those sectors. European countries depend on Moscow for reactor fuel and uranium products. Washington must hasten the elimination of this critical Kremlin revenue stream.

President Biden should use Executive Order (E.O.) 14024 to sanction Rosatom, its senior executives, and associated companies and individuals. The administration could permit waivers and wind-down periods for U.S. nuclear utilities and allied countries in identifying alternatives or wrapping up ongoing nuclear projects.

U.S. sanctions would be enhanced by additional penalties pursuant to E.O. 14114, issued in December, which authorizes sanctions against foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate significant illegal transactions with designated Russians. This would have an immediate chilling effect on any foreign business transactions with sanctioned Rosatom-related persons unless permitted by a U.S. waiver.

An American ban on business with Rosatom would send a strong market signal to both domestic and foreign nuclear suppliers that Washington intends to end international business with Russia’s nuclear sector over the long term.

Absent swift action by the administration, Congress should pass legislation to enshrine these steps into law. Moscow has shown that it is no longer a reliable nuclear energy partner. It is time for Washington to match its policy goals with action.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow and deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow Andrea on X @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.

Image: Shutterstock.com.