The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has lifted its ban on financing nuclear power projects abroad. Last month, the DFC proposed the change to its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures, which had specifically prohibited it from offering such support.
The change, announced by the DFC on July 23, also implements a key recommendation made in an April 2020 report issued by the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group, an interagency initiative to review and modernize U.S. nuclear energy policy.
What they’re saying: “Today marks a significant step forward in U.S. efforts to support the energy needs of allies around the world,” said DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler. “The change also positions DFC to accelerate growth in developing economies with limited energy resources. We look forward to exploring opportunities to leverage this new capability to deliver affordable, reliable, and emission-free energy where it is needed most. At the same time, these efforts will also advance innovative technologies that adhere to the United States’ high safety, security, and nonproliferation standards.”
Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette also praised the new policy, saying, “Over the past three years, Department of Energy officials have met with government and private industry around the world who are eager to import American civil nuclear technology, yet funding challenges prevented them from doing so as a result of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s legacy ban on financing of nuclear projects. Reversing this ban is a common sense action that will increase global energy security and help other countries meet their own emissions-reduction goals while providing their citizens with reliable baseload generation.”
Industry reaction: “Financing plays a decisive role in global nuclear energy procurement decisions,” said Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute. “This milestone policy change will enable U.S. nuclear exports to compete on a more level playing field against state-owned rivals from countries such as Russia and China. It also positions the United States to help other countries reach their climate and energy goals, with the potential for multibillion-dollar growth in exports. U.S. nuclear energy companies are poised to offer a broad portfolio of innovative technologies to meet the growing worldwide demand for reliable, carbon-free energy over the next decade.”
Korsnick added that when reviewing applications for nuclear energy projects, the DFC should adopt Export-Import Bank guidelines, which are in step with International Atomic Energy Agency standards for protecting people and the environment. “A consistent, coordinated U.S. government policy on such projects would reassure our potential international partners,” she said.
Background: On its website, the DFC describes itself as “America’s development bank” and states that “DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today.” The agency was established in 2019 through the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018 by merging the Overseas Private Investment Corporation with the Development Credit Authority of the United States Agency for International Development.