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Trump Administration Promoting Financing of Overseas Nuclear Projects, with Some Geopolitical Caveats

June 13, 2020 (EIRNS)—The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has opened a 30-day comment period on a proposal to lift restrictions on the U.S. financing of civilian nuclear energy projects overseas. According to the New York Times, this proposal was included in the report prepared by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group report, submitted last April, which looked at ways to modernize nuclear energy policy.

The DFC itself was only created last January to replace the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with a budget of $60 billion—ultimately a paltry amount—to help finance projects for the entire developing sector. Almost ten years ago, the Washington Examiner reported on June 9, the Obama Administration inserted an explicit prohibition of any nuclear power plant projects at OPIC, favoring “renewables” instead. This is what the Trump Administration now wants to change.

The idea of allowing financing for civilian nuclear projects, including small modular reactors (SMRs), has been strongly backed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and her colleague, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who have campaigned for this policy change for months, going back to last Fall. Murkowski told the Washington Examiner that “nuclear energy technology can help meet the world’s clean energy needs.” Lifting the prohibition on U.S. financing of such projects, she added, “will strengthen the U.S. economy while boosting international relations and global energy security,” stressing, too, that this policy shift would allow developing countries to have easier access to clean nuclear energy.

The DFC itself also points to the potential of the U.S. aiding developing nations in obtaining new technologies, including SMRs and microreactors.

There is, however, a geopolitical component to this, outlined in the Nuclear Fuel Working Group report, which emphasized that a change in policy would permit the U.S. to “compete” against China’s and Russia’s “state-backed” nuclear energy projects, singling out such companies as Russia’s Rosatom, which builds nuclear reactors in many developing nations. The June 11 New York Times quoted the DFC stating that the new policy orientation could “offer an alternative to the financing of authoritarian regimes, while advancing U.S. nonproliferation safeguards.”

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