In this week’s issue, we highlight the need for transparency, trust and cooperation in building the global governance framework to prepare for the deployment of new, small and advanced reactors. We also note Russia's new carbon neutrality draft strategy seeking to expand nuclear output by almost thirty per cent by 2050. Finally, we draw attention to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that showcases the status of nuclear power generation at the state level in 2020. 
COVID-19 Lessons for Next-Gen Nuclear Governance
As the novel coronavirus rips across the global landscape, it would seem to have little connection to the governance regime required for the rapidly developing next generation of nuclear energy. But there are three essential connections – transparency, trust, and international cooperation.

A predisposition for opacity and a weak bond of trust are at the root of many persistent public fears about nuclear power. But there is the opportunity to effectively address and possibly ameliorate these issues as next-gen technologies move from development to deployment. To achieve that, the framework for the governance of these technologies needs to be developed early, be demonstrably effective, and generate strong support from responsible nuclear nations. Missing the opportunity to build this policy framework now will open the door to future problems and bad policy.

The leadership and degree of international cooperation, or competition, in the development of this nuclear governance framework is particularly important.

Small modular and advanced reactors ( SM&ARs ) are being pursued by a number of countries, including democratic allies like the U.S., Canada, U.K., and South Korea. They are facing off against the authoritarian governments of Russia and China. All developers are racing to move their designs to deployment while also trying to lock up future export markets.

An important target market of these reactors is decentralized, small grid, developing economy nations. For example, in Africa alone, one-third of the continent’s nations are considering nuclear power. This has fueled growing alarm about Russia’s and China’s increasing economic ties with Africa and the potential that they will become the continent’s preferred nuclear supplier. Concerns are focused on how nuclear inexperienced nations will be supported and how effectively nuclear proliferation, security, terrorism and other challenges will be addressed.

COVID-19 is relevant in this environment because it is a real-world example of how nations prioritize transparency and international responsibility in managing a transnational security crisis. The responses to the coronavirus offer some indication of how nations might prepare for, and respond to, unexpected nuclear challenges in nations to which they have exported next-gen reactors.

China, for example, has faced serious questions about how transparent it was with the international community about the timeline, severity, and origin of the novel coronavirus. This apprehension is intensified by an analysis of the comprehensive social media machine that China has developed and deployed to shape to its advantage international media and public views on a host of issues. Russia’s intentional disinformation campaigns against competitor nations are well documented and its powerful online influence ignited a U.S. political crisis .

As COVID-19 has illustrated, disinformation and delay can result in greater international danger and deaths. The handling of the virus outbreak and the communications capabilities of the centrally controlled governments raise worries about how much trust can be placed in their willingness to act transparently should a nuclear crisis arise involving their technology.

The other relevant COVID-19 issue is how nations exercise their muscle with major international institutions responsible for global wellbeing. In the COVID-19 case, there has been serious criticism about the influence China has exerted over the World Health Organization (WHO) and its pronouncements about the virus. This has eroded confidence in the objectivity and mission of the global health organization, despite its valuable mission.

The nuclear corollary to WHO is roughly the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As U.S. and allied nation nuclear exports have significantly declined, Russia has picked up the slack and China is nipping at its heels. These nations have significant nuclear export advantages across large and small technology platforms because they finance their nuclear industry, integrate their exports into their geopolitical strategies, and offer nuclear neophytes a one-stop shop. This package offers the potential for Russia and China to corner the global market for smaller next-gen reactors.

If successful in that strategy, they may exert increased influence in the IAEA commensurate with their civil nuclear strength. That is how the U.S. and allied nations operated when they were in control of the global nuclear market. And that’s why it’s vital for them to remain viable in the next phase of the global nuclear power game. Without a balance of influences in the IAEA, next-gen nuclear governance may be less effective and comprehensive than global circumstances demand. And that can lead to very unfortunate results.

COVID-19 is a nasty wake-up call that in a globally interwoven world, crises cannot be contained by borders alone. It illustrates that serious gaps remain in the ability of the international community to collaborate in the face of transnational challenges. And it underscores that not all nations embrace the transparency that is required to build trust. These are important lessons from a painful period. They need to be incorporated into an effective, new framework for next-gen nuclear governance. That process should begin now. 

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security
New Report Spotlight

In a new article, The Strategic Case for U.S. Climate Leadership, published in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, distinguished experts James A. Baker III, George P. Shultz and Ted Halstead discuss the economic, geopolitical, and national security imperatives for developing a U.S. climate policy. The proposed comprehensive plan aims to position the U.S. as a leader in clean energy technologies, enhance domestic industry competitiveness, and ensure equitable distribution of benefits from emissions reductions.
Nuclear Collaborations
A recent three-day exercise hosted by the IAEA highlighted the need for international preparation and collaboration in the unlikely scenario of a nuclear or radiological emergency. Thirty-five countries attended the ‘ConvEx-2b’ exercise in late March, which was chaired by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi: “We need to be prepared for the possibility that nuclear and radiological emergencies resulting from a safety or security event could be accompanied by natural disasters, pandemics or other crises.”

Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP), a Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer, will supply Egypt’s research reactor with low-enriched nuclear fuel components for at least ten years, following the signing of a contract with the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority.

The IAEA and the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) have agreed to cooperate in the advancement of sustainable nuclear power after signing a Practical Arrangement last week. In a sign of strengthening relations, the two organizations will maintain a particular focus on emerging nuclear technologies and waste disposal.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The Ugandan government plans to establish a specialized nuclear institute to aid the development of NPPs. The institute is expected to provide upwards of 3,000 jobs in the areas of business, resource management and economics, and will require potential Russian and Chinese developers to establish nuclear training centers at new NPPs.

Russia’s Ministry for Economic Development recently released a draft strategy for low-carbon development that would seek to grow nuclear power output by almost thirty per cent by 2050. The strategy’s most ambitious path calls for Russia to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, with hopes that nuclear production will reach 260 TWh by the mid-century.
Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has granted a five-year license extension to its BN-600 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyark NPP, which began operating in 1981, following a series of safety inspections. 

Czech utility company ČEZ is hoping to add two new reactors to its Dukovany power plant, having filed an application for their construction in late March. The proposed 1200 MWe Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) are expected to be commissioned in 2036, adding to the four VVER-440 units already operating at Dukovany.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Tennessee to study the economic feasibility of operating Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

The project to build two new reactors at Georgia Power’s Vogtle site is now 84 per cent complete after the containment vessel top head for Unit 4 was lifted into place late last month. Both new AP1000 reactors at the plant are expected to be operational by 2022.

The future of New Hampshire’s Seabrook NPP will remain unclear until at least July 10, following a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to delay a decision on the plant’s license renewal for a second time.
Licensing for the Crystal River nuclear plant has changed hands after the NRC approved a license transfer as part of the site’s decommissioning process. Duke Energy is transferring its license for the retired Florida NPP to ADP CR3, a firm specializing in plant decommissioning.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
After nearly a decade of development, the VERA nuclear simulation software has been granted its first commercial application. The breakthrough project, led by CASL and the U.S. Department of Energy, will allow nuclear scientists and technicians to model the performance and lifespans of existing nuclear reactors.
Noteworthy Research
The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly energy review for March details the status of power generation within nuclear states in the U.S. The study found three states – New Hampshire, South Carolina and Illinois – each generating over 50 per cent of their electricity from nuclear power, while a further nine states generating more than 30 per cent from the source.
The Nuclear Conversation
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