Nuclear industry intensifies push to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank

Nuclear industry intensifies push to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank

The nuclear power industry is rushing against the clock to convince lawmakers to authorize the Export-Import Bank before it expires June 30.

Companies that make reactors and related equipment say the Ex-Im program is essential to continuing their business and the thousands of jobs that rely on it, because the international market for their goods and services is much more active than the domestic one.

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They face tough odds, including major, high-ranking opposition in the House from Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), along with major conservative organizations.

Opponents like conservative group Americans for Prosperity label the bank as corporate welfare and say that businesses shouldn’t need government help to sell their products across the globe.

But with no new nuclear power plants coming online in recent years and few under construction, the international market — where more than 200 new reactors are planned — is the main focus for suppliers like Westinghouse Electric Co. and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

And the competing companies from Russia, South Korea, France and other countries almost always have government financing support or even stronger government involvement.

“Clearly, the Export-Import Bank levels the playing field for us,” said David Howell, a senior vice president at Westinghouse, a Pittsburgh-based company that makes nuclear reactors and provides plant services.

He said utilities worldwide require that companies bidding to build nuclear plants have government financing available.

“Without the Export-Import Bank backing us up, we would not even be in the conversation,” he said. “So it’s extremely important, not just for new builds, but even for large upgrades or modifications to existing power plants.”

Ex-Im provides government-backed loans and loan guarantees for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services.

The nuclear industry is working with major business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for a long-term
reauthorization of the bank before its legal authority runs out.

They’re leaning heavily on companies and their supply chains to advocate for Ex-Im, recognizing that small businesses and individuals can sometimes tell a more compelling story than major corporations.

It helps Ex-Im’s proponents to point to an entire industry and its large supply chain that would be seriously harmed without the bank.

GE Hitachi says exports of up to 15 new nuclear plants over the next decade are likely to hinge on Ex-Im support, valued at $3 billion to $5 billion each.

In a recent opinion piece in Wilmington, N.C.’s Star News, Caroline Reda, GE Hitachi’s president, said various North Carolina companies that supply her company rely on Ex-Im.

“The services the bank provides to small businesses, such as export credit insurance, are particularly important as they reduce the commercial and political risk of exporting goods around the world,” she wrote.

Howell said about 3,000 to 4,000 Westinghouse employees rely on the contracts that get Ex-Im support, as well as more than 15,000 employees in outside companies.

The nuclear sector also argues that it’s important to spread U.S. nuclear technology around the world, because it features strong safety and security standards.

But to Ex-Im’s opponents, nuclear is no special case.

“Taxpayers should not be in the business of subsidizing risky loans or giving money to big businesses and foreign countries,” said Levi Russell, spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-aligned group that, along with dozens of other conservative groups, is urging Congress to let Ex-Im expire.

“That would be the case regardless of any individual company or any industry.”


This article is part of America's Nuclear Energy Future series, sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). For more information about NEI, visit nei.org/futureofenergy.