The United States has been struggling to compete with its peers in securing nuclear power plant construction projects around the world.  One of the factors impacting U.S. competitiveness is that many foreign countries such as Russia and China can obtain government financing to support foreign projects—whereas U.S. vendors cannot.  Under a recent proposal, this imbalance could soon change, and we encourage the nuclear community to step up and voice its support (comments due by July 10).

Recently, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which provides financial support to a variety of U.S.-led projects in the developing world, has proposed lifting a prior categorical prohibition on the funding nuclear power projects abroad, as redlined in its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures.  According to the DFC press release, the new policy “supports the agency’s development mandate, bolsters U.S. foreign policy, and recognizes advances in technology.”

While other countries like Russia and China have been connecting with developing countries and developing security relationships through large-scale nuclear projects, the U.S. has taken a back seat, to the detriment of its economy and national security (something we outline in depth in our paper Back from the Brink: A Threatened Nuclear Energy Industry Compromises National Security).  The change in DFC policy could open the door to U.S. competitiveness in the global nuclear field—especially in the area of advanced reactors, where U.S. vendors hold a significant technology lead.   It will also create opportunities for energy sustainability in countries that may struggle to meet energy needs.

The proposed policy change also standardizes the definition of “renewable energy” to match the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s definition.  The new definition is broader and removes the previous definition’s overt exclusion of nuclear power as a form of renewable energy.  This revision may allow DFC to fund nuclear projects that would not otherwise have been recognized as clean energy projects before, since projects involving renewable energy meet certain requirements for funding by the DFC.

The DFC has opened a 30-day public comment period.  While this proposal has plenty of proponents, opponents of nuclear energy are likely to write as well in opposing this change.  Therefore, it is important that U.S.-based advanced reactor developers voice their support for this critical proposal.  Comments can be emailed to odp@dfc.gov until July 10, 2020.

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