The U.S. nuclear power industry is reportedly pressuring the Biden administration to allow continued uranium imports from Russia despite growing conflict in Ukraine, citing cheap fuel supplies as key to keep electricity prices low in the country.

The National Energy Institute (NEI), a trade group of US nuclear power companies including Duke Energy Corp and Exelon Corp, is lobbying the White House to keep the exemption on uranium imports from Russia, Reuters reported on Wednesday citing “two sources familiar with the matter.”

“The (US nuclear power) industry is just addicted to cheap Russian uranium,” said one of the sources cited in the report, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the “situational awareness”.

The United States depends on Russia and its allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for almost half of the uranium fueling its nuclear power plants, about 10.3 million kilograms in 2020, which in turn produce almost 20% of electricity in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration. and the World Nuclear Association.

Australia and Canada also have large uranium reserves and there is sufficient processing capacity there and in Europe, the report adds. But Russia and its allies are the cheapest producers.

The development comes as the United States and its mostly European allies imposed a series of sanctions on Moscow last week as Russian forces continued their advance towards neighboring Ukraine. The sanctions, however, exempt uranium sales and related financial transactions, according to the report.

NEI lobbying, sources add, intends to ensure uranium is not caught in future energy-related sanctions, especially amid growing calls to sanction sales of Russian crude oil .

In addition, the use of Russian uranium by the US nuclear industry will most likely raise new questions about where and how the US sources the materials needed to supply high-tech products and renewable energy, a dependency that President Joe Biden described last week as a security threat.

The Washington-based NEI also stressed that it supports a diversity of uranium supplies, including the development of facilities across the United States to produce and process the fuel.

“While Russia is a major global supplier of commercial nuclear fuel, U.S. utilities contract with a global network of companies and countries for their fuel needs to mitigate the risks of potential disruption,” said Nima Ashkeboussi, Senior Director of Fuel and Radiation Safety at NEI. as quoted in the report.

The report comes as Russian forces advance towards the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

Reacting to questions about uranium lobbying in Washington, a White House official quoted in the report said the administration was working to keep U.S. energy costs down, saying, “We listen to all requests for industry and will continue to do so as we take action to hold Russia accountable.”

Uranium is used as fuel inside reactors to perform nuclear fission to boil water and generate steam that spins turbines to generate electricity.

Currently, there are no functioning uranium production or processing facilities in the United States, the report adds, noting that several companies have expressed interest in resuming domestic production if they can sign contracts. long-term supply with nuclear power producers.

The US states of Texas and Wyoming have significant uranium reserves, according to the report, which further notes that former US President Donald Trump has proposed spending $150 million to create a strategic uranium reserve in 2020, and the Biden administration has expressed support for the idea.