US takes steps to jump-start overseas SMR deployments

07 December 2023

The US Department of State and US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) have announced a suite of financial tools to support the deployment of advanced nuclear energy systems to help reach net-zero goals. They also announced plans to mobilise more than USD4.2 billion of investment in enrichment and conversion capacity through the five-nation Sapporo 5 collaboration.

EXIM Chair Reta Jo Lewis (left) and US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins announced the measures at COP28 in Dubai (Image: X/@EXIMChair)

The EXIM financial tools aim to support SMR deployments and help US exporters compete in this global market and will help potential clients secure large-scale, flexible financing to turn projects into reality, the Department of State said.

For qualifying transactions, EXIM could provide a loan guarantee or direct loan for up to 22 years post-construction, help the borrower finance exposure fees and interest payments during the construction period, support pre-export disbursement of the loan during equipment fabrication, and work with other Export Credit Agencies to help jointly finance the various components of a given SMR design.
Such EXIM support will be conditional on host governments of SMR projects entering into so-called 123 Agreements with the USA and be parties to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation and other applicable civil nuclear liability conventions. The bank also requires design approval by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission "or an equivalent foreign regulatory authority acceptable to EXIM".
"The potential of nuclear energy to address both decarbonisation and the growing demand for electricity is clearer than ever before," said EXIM Chair Reta Jo Lewis. "I am proud that EXIM's Board of Directors took this important step to emphasise EXIM's deep commitment that EXIM remains ready and willing to fund creditworthy applications for US SMR exports, which will drive the global energy transition."

The financial tools were approved in a resolution by EXIM's board of directors on 30 November, and the bank has launched an SMR Financing Toolkit to offer further guidance.

Sapporo 5 mobilises fuel cycle support

The State Department also announced the collective intent of the USA, alongside Canada, Japan, France, and the UK, to support increased deployment of zero-carbon, peaceful nuclear energy by expanding nuclear fuel production capacity "across trusted, high-quality suppliers free from manipulation and influence". The group - known as the Sapporo 5 - "will work to mobilise at least USD4.2 billion in government-led and private investment in the five nations' collective enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years, with a view to further additional private sector finance," it said.

The alliance was launched in April at the Nuclear Energy Forum held alongside the G7 ministers' meeting in Sapporo, Japan, with the five nations intending to collaborate to support the stable supply of fuels for the current nuclear and future nuclear generation fleet.

Representatives of the nuclear industry in the signatory countries said they were "encouraged" by the multilateral move to advance a secure nuclear fuel supply chain. 

In a joint statement, Canadian Nuclear Association President and CEO John Gorman, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum President Shiro Arai, Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Maria Korsnick, Nuclear Industry Association CEO Tom Greatrex and nucleareurope Director General Yves Desbazeille said: "Earlier this week at COP28, these same governments along with nearly 20 others set an ambition to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050. As the demand for clean nuclear energy continues to surge around the globe, so too does the need for a reliable and secure fuel supply - which not only advances our decarbonisation and energy independence goals but also strengthens our collective national security. Government action is essential to build up our capabilities, but it will also require the investment of private companies and financial institutions to advance the commitments made today."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News