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US senators urge agency not to allow funding of 'risky' nuclear projects

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Washington — Senators Edward Markey, Democrat-Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont, in a July 10 letter jointly urged US Development Finance Corp., not to "waste American tax dollars on risky international nuclear projects."

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DFC proposed June 10 to revise its policy so that the federal agency could provide financing for nuclear power projects, beginning a 30-day public comment period ending July 10.

The agency was created in 2019 through the consolidation of Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the US Agency for International Development's Development Credit Authority.

OPIC and USAID both had bans in place prohibiting them from supporting nuclear reactor projects.

The senators said international nuclear power projects "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."

Industry representatives said in June that by lifting the prohibition on the financing of nuclear projects, DFC could potentially fund advanced reactor projects that could help developing countries.

Carol Berrigan, senior director of federal programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in a June 16 email: "Financing plays a decisive role in global nuclear energy procurement decisions. Russia and China bring a full financing package to support their companies, with generous terms — large loans, affordable rates and extended loan tenors."

The senators said: "DFC should not be dedicating its limited financing to unproven technologies that present both safety and security risks. Pushing experimental research and development is not part of the DFC's mandate."

DFC has a total investment limit of $60 billion.

But DFC said June 10 financing nuclear projects "supports the agency's development mandate, bolsters US foreign policy, and recognizes advances in technology which could make nuclear energy particularly impactful in emerging markets."

The senators requested a response from DFC by July 31.

The American Nuclear Society and advocacy group Clear Path, along with 40 other organizations and individuals, submitted comment letters to DFC July 2 and 9, respectively, supporting the removal of the ban.

DFC did not respond to requests for comment July 9.