The nuclear community’s reaction to last month’s proposal from the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to eliminate its legacy prohibition on financing international nuclear energy projects was unsurprisingly positive (see here and here). On the negative side of things, however, was the reaction from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt) and Edward Markey (D., Mass.), expressed in a July 10 letter to the DFC.
Sanders/Markey key quote: “The June 10, 2020, proposal to remove this prohibition from the DFC’s Environmental and Social Policies and Procedures would represent a serious and impractical departure from longstanding precedent. International nuclear power projects described by the DFC are not a cost-competitive form of zero-carbon energy, remain unproven, will divert funds from higher-priority low-income countries, and are not supported by other development banks. DFC financing of overseas nuclear reactors may offshore the physical risks associated [with] nuclear power, but they would keep U.S. taxpayers on the hook for the steep financial ones.
“New nuclear power projects are outcompeted by and far harder to construct than other existing zero-carbon energy sources, making them an ineffective technology to use in meeting the sustainable development goal of the DFC.”
However: Also on July 10, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and Conor Lamb (D., Pa.) penned their own letter to the DFC, taking the opposite position. According to the lawmakers, the DFC’s current funding prohibition—carried over from its predecessor program, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation—is outdated due to advances in nuclear technology; an expanding global market for nuclear, led by China and Russia; and the need to promote emissions-free technologies to other countries.
Whitehouse/Lamb key quote: “The DFC in partnership with the private sector has the opportunity to leverage funds to address challenges facing developing countries across the energy, healthcare, and infrastructure sectors. This includes fostering investments in nuclear technologies, like small modular reactors and microreactors. This work can help establish the United States as a world leader in transformative energy projects that help address climate change. . . . Our support for the DFC rule change is contingent upon the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] continuing to work collaboratively with other countries to ensure stringent safety protocols remain in place for licensing and regulation of these new reactors. We recently gave the NRC authority to develop a new licensing and regulatory framework to better assess and govern advanced reactors in the United States. We should use lessons learned at home to translate our new licensing and regulatory structure for these technologies to other countries.”