The US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) President & Chair Reta Jo Lewis has announced that EXIM has approved a resolution to fund applications for the export of US small modular reactor (SMR) systems and components. The announcement was made public in a White House fact sheet and at the UN climate change conference (COP28) in Dubai.

The resolution and accompanying Toolkit document describe how EXIM’s financing tools can support the export of US SMR designs and provide the large-scale, flexible financing needed to realise their construction. The resolution addresses significant global interest in deploying US SMR nuclear energy systems to support critical climate and energy security goals and makes clear EXIM’s willingness to approve qualified applications without the need for new policy changes by the agency. “It is also designed to promote a range of new and flexible EXIM financing tools,” EXIM 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.

EXIM support will be conditional on host governments of SMR projects entering into so-called 123 Agreements with the USA and being parties to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation and other applicable civil nuclear liability conventions. The bank will also require 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 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 credit-worthy applications for US SMR exports, which will drive the global energy transition.”

Lewis was joined at COP28 by Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control & International Security; US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate David Livingston; Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Energy for Ghana; Frederic Beauregard Tellier, Director General for Nuclear Energy at Natural Resources Canada; Senior Advisor & Managing Director for Energy in the Office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; and Melanie Nakagawa, Chief Sustainability Officer at Microsoft.

Also at COP28 the US, Canada, France, Japan, and UK announced plans to mobilise $4.2bn in government-led investments to develop a secure, reliable global nuclear energy supply chain. “These investments will enhance uranium enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years and establish a resilient global uranium supply market free from Russian influence,” the announcement said. The alliance of these five states, known as the Sapporo 5, was launched in April at the Nuclear Energy Forum held alongside the G7 ministers' meeting in Sapporo, Japan.

The announcement said they:

  • Resolve to promote public-private investment in enriched uranium production capacity free from Russian material;
  • Resolve to establish a resilient global uranium supply market free from Russian influence and the potential to be subject to political leverage by other countries;
  • Resolve to work towards enabling the investment of government or private-led financial resources necessary to increase our own conversion and enriched uranium production capacity and to advance efforts to secure reliable nuclear fuel suppliers;
  • Underscore our announcements to pursue at least $4.2bn in government-led and private investment in our five nations’ collective enrichment and conversion capacity over the next three years, with a view to catalyze private sector finance, without prejudice of open market rules among like-minded nations;
  • Invite nuclear electricity generating utilities or direct nuclear energy industrial end-users of like-minded nations to develop long-term supply strategy that signals and provides confidence to the industry to make the relevant investment to increase their capacity;
  • Invite all like-minded nations seeking reliable nuclear energy partners to join us in securing the global uranium supply chain.

The US State Department also affirmed the collective intent of the five states 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".

Image: EXIM President & Chair Reta Jo Lewis (second from left) has announced that EXIM has approved a resolution to fund applications for the export of US small modular reactor (SMR) systems and components (courtesy of EXIM)