In this week’s newsletter, we highlight why 2023 is a pivotal year for the future of the U.S.-South Korea civil nuclear relationship in a new article published by the Global American Business Institute (GABI). We spotlight the recently-announced G7 effort to replace Russian dominance in the global nuclear fuel market by developing shared supply chains and offers to third countries. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
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U.S.-South Korea Nuclear Cooperation: A Pivotal Year
In a new GABI article, I offer my perspective on why 2023 is a pivotal year for the future of the U.S.-South Korea nuclear relationship. This bilateral partnership is essential for addressing five key global imperatives: the need for reliable zero-carbon energy, the growing importance of energy security, the influence of nuclear geopolitics, the advances in next-generation nuclear technologies, and the importance of maintaining high nuclear governance standards. On all of these issues, neither country is as strong alone as they are together. But the continuing dispute between America and South Korea’s top nuclear companies is impeding an effective relationship at a critical time. There is hope that the upcoming Biden-Yoon summit meeting can assist in furthering the development of the civil nuclear relationship and the GABI article offers four ideas for strengthening the partnership going forward.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

On April 16, a five-nation alliance, consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Japan, announced an effort to displace Russia as the dominant international supplier of nuclear reactor fuel. The agreement will support a steady supply of fuels and ensure the safe development and deployment of fuels for future advanced reactors. The G7 noted that shared supply chains will address current dependencies on Russian fuel and cut off a source of funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine. The group noted that this collaboration will serve collective climate and energy security goals and establish a level playing field for effective competition with Russia.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Two landmines recently exploded near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. As a result, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi emphasized that it is now more important than ever for Russia and Ukraine to agree on a protection zone around the plant. Grossi added that it was not clear what had caused the landmine blasts outside the plant’s perimeter fence, but added that IAEA experts at the site continued to hear regular shelling in the area. The Zaporizhzhia plant also has relied on a single external power line for the past six weeks.

Germany, Poland, and other European Union countries are renewing their push for sanctions on Russian nuclear energy. In a document seen by CNBC, Poland and the Baltic States called for sanctions on civil nuclear energy activities, as well as bans on diamond imports from Russia. Despite EU sanctions against Russia’s oil and natural gas sectors, Russia’s nuclear sector remains unsanctioned, with Russia exporting $1 billion worth of nuclear materials and technology between March and December 2022.
Canadian company Cameco and Ukraine’s Energoatom signed the final agreement needed to implement processing of all of Ukraine’s uranium in Canada to produce fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. The document covers the physical delivery of uranium oxide from Ukraine to Canada, providing for the entire quantity of uranium mined by Ukraine’s SkhidGZK to be supplied to Canada and for conversion and supply of natural uranium hexafluoride for enrichment. The two companies previously signed a bilateral agreement last month for the supply of uranium hexafluoride to 9 of Ukraine’s reactors.
Ukraine’s power grid has resumed electricity exports to Europe, a significant development following months of missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure. The country resumed energy exports to Moldova and is expected to begin exporting to Poland shortly thereafter. Preparation was key in accomplishing this, as the grid operator anticipated the invasion, making emergency plans and stockpiling reserve equipment. Islanding procedures also helped prevent a collapse of the grid.
The U.S. Department of Energy warned Rosatom in a letter sent last month not to handle “US-origin nuclear technical data” at the Zaporizhzhia plant. The technology is export-controlled, making it unlawful for Russian citizens or entities to access, review, copy, or re-export. Following this warning, a Russian official stated that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant would stop using U.S.-produced nuclear fuel as quickly as possible.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakh uranium agency Kazatomprom announced that some nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe are looking to sign uranium contracts with Kazatomprom. Demand for uranium is expected to grow by about a third through 2030, and Kazakhstan plans to keep output steady at about 22,000 tons this year. Kazakhstan currently produces more than 40% of the world’s uranium.
Nuclear Collaborations
Over the past few months, Russia and China have been strengthening their cooperation in nuclear energy affairs. Rosatom recently completed its delivery of 25 tons of highly enriched uranium to China’s fast breeder reactor that is currently under construction. Previously, during last month’s meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rosatom and the China Atomic Energy Authority signed an agreement to extend their cooperation for several years.
The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Alberta to collaborate on the deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology in the Canadian province. KAERI and Alberta have discussed clean energy cooperation based on KAERI’s SMR technology, particularly the System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART). Alberta is one of four Canadian provinces that have agreed to a joint strategic plan outlining their support for deploying SMRs.
Two U.S. government agencies declared $4 billion to support construction of BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland. The Export-Import Bank and the International Development Finance Corporation declared $3 billion and $1 billion respectively in financial support. The funds will finance the construction of the first two plants to be installed by Orlen Synthos Green Energy. Additionally, two Polish companies signed a letter of intent with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) to assess the viability of building APR1400 reactors on a site in Central Poland.
Bangladesh will begin making payments to Russia for the ongoing construction of its Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Chinese yuan to sidestep U.S. sanctions. Payments will go through China’s Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) instead of the more common SWIFT system. The plant includes two Russian-built VVER-1200 reactors with the first unit scheduled to be ready by next year.
Hungary and Rosatom agreed on amendments to existing construction and financing contracts for the country’s planned Paks II Nuclear Power Plant. Hungary continues to be an outlier in the European Union by working with Russia on nuclear power projects, as well as opposing any EU sanctions on Russia’s nuclear sector. Hungary’s Energy Minister stated that the plant is slated for completion in 2032.
Hungary and Belarus announced plans to cooperate in the nuclear energy field. One incentive for Hungary is that Belarus already has VVER-1200 units which are planned for the Paks II project. The memorandum will involve Belarus sharing its knowledge and experience gained from building its own VVER units.
China and France signed nuclear cooperation agreements during French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent state visit to Beijing. Areas of cooperation include research and development, design, procurement and operation and maintenance of nuclear facilities in addition to the reprocessing of waste.
The United Kingdom and South Korea signed a joint statement on the need for an energy transition, which includes prospects for South Korea’s participation and investment in new British nuclear power plant projects. The statement further includes accelerating plans for civil nuclear energy, sharing experiences in developing the latest advanced technologies, and setting global standards for security, safety, and safeguards. Both countries have individually laid out plans to expand their nuclear energy capacities in the coming decades.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S.-based Clean Core Thorium Energy to support the development of its Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) fuel. CNL will support the company’s R&D and licensing. ANEEL technology uses thorium and HALEU with an aim to improve the economics and safety on CANDU and PHWRs. The fuel should be commercially available in 2025.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Germany completed its phase-out of nuclear power by closing its final three reactors on April 15. While the action implements a decision made in 2011, a recent poll found that 60% of Germans now oppose the phase-out. German ministers directed focus to the goal of expanding renewable energy to help provide energy security, arguing that keeping its nuclear power plants open would be both costly and unfeasible given that they haven’t undergone safety checks since 2009.
The European Commission is being sued by environmental campaigners over its decision to include gas and nuclear in its green taxonomy. Two separate legal challenges are being lodged at the European Union’s general court in Luxembourg, one by Greenpeace and another by a coalition including Client Earth and WWF. Greenpeace argues that the EU executive acted unlawfully when it designated gas and nuclear as bridge technologies, while Client Earth is challenging the inclusion of gas, which it says breaks the EU climate law that sets a legally binding target of reaching net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
French utility Electricite de France (EDF) has warned that drawn-out strikes at its nuclear reactors and hydroelectricity plants have cost the company €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in lost output. Additionally, an EDF spokesperson told Reuters that a moratorium has been imposed on hirings. This financial hit follows a record loss in 2022 when the utility was impacted by frequent reactor outages.
Finland’s much-delayed Olkiluoto-3 nuclear reactor has begun regular output. The Olkiluoto-3 reactor has a capacity of 1,600 megawatts, making it the most powerful reactor in Europe as well as the first one built in Western Europe in more than 15 years. Construction of Olkiluoto-3 began in 2005 and was originally due to be completed four years later, but the project was plagued by several technological problems and lawsuits.
Estonia’s Finance Ministry identified four potential sites for a nuclear power plant. A decision on whether to build a plant has not yet been made by the state, and further site selection will depend on the choice of technology. The country is specifically considering a small modular reactor of up to 300 MW capacity.
The IAEA conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission in Kazakhstan as a follow-up to a previous 2016 mission. The agency concluded that the country fully addressed the recommendations made at that time. Further work is needed to develop the country’s nuclear regulator and future operator, and to assess funding requirements for nuclear power infrastructure.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame stated the country is considering the use of modular nuclear plants. He elaborated that modular nuclear reactors would not only contribute more electricity for Rwanda, but also help turn Rwanda into an exporter of electricity to other African countries. Currently, about 600 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, while demand is expected to grow considerably in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
The Western Europe Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) has set out steps that the nuclear industry must take to ensure the timely licensing of small modular reactor (SMR) and advanced modular reactor designs in Europe. WENRA recommends that the nuclear industry should ensure that their reactor designs are sufficiently mature, enabling efficient application of the regulatory assessment process. Second, it should provide timely submissions to national regulatory bodies and proactively gain a comprehensive understanding of national legal and regulatory frameworks.
Indian Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh announced that nearly 9% of electricity is likely to be contributed from India’s nuclear sources by 2047. India’s Department of Atomic Energy has already laid out the goal of achieving 20 gigawatts capacity from nuclear power by 2030. As of 2023, India’s installed nuclear power capacity is 6.78 GW, comprising 1.6% of the country’s total power capacity.
Two Polish companies, ZE PAK and Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), formed a joint venture to implement the project to construct a nuclear power plant in Patnow with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP). The joint company will represent the Polish side at all stages of the project, including the execution of the siting and environmental studies, acquiring financing, and the preparation of a detailed investment schedule together with KHNP.
Due to steep declines in hydroelectric and nuclear power output in Europe, Europe’s total electricity generation over the first quarter of 2023 is 6.4% lower than during the same period in 2022. While nuclear and hydro power accounted for an average of 40% of total European electricity generation between 2000 and 2020, that figure fell below 35% in 2022. This decline is inhibiting the region’s efforts to reboot regular electricity generation after last year’s shock.
The U.S. government has turned down Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power’s (KHNP) report on bidding for a nuclear power plant project in the Czech Republic. This rejection raises concerns that South Korea’s plans to export APR1400 reactors may be impeded by ongoing litigation with Westinghouse Electric. Westinghouse previously sued KHNP and KEPCO over export control issues.
The first HI-STORM FW cask has been placed into the used fuel dry storage facility at the Krsko Nuclear Power Plant in Slovenia, officially marking the facility’s commission. In the first fuel loading campaign, 16 casks holding a total of 592 used fuel elements will be placed in the dry storage facility by late 2023. In January, Slovenia’s government approved extending Krsko’s continued operations until 2043.
An IAEA task force released a report noting progress in safety aspects of the Japanese plan to release contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant into the Pacific Ocean. Tank storage is expected to reach full capacity later this year. The task force will need to finalize a full safety review before reaching a conclusion on whether Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) addressed fundamental safety principles.
Rosatom subdivision AEM-Technologies shipped the pressurizer for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu, India. The pressurizer is the primary circuit equipment of Russian VVER reactor technology and responsible for creating and maintaining pressure and coolant volume. India is currently building 4 more units at the Kudankulam site, which is eventually going to include 6 power units with Russian-built VVER-1000 reactors.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has directed staff to create a regulatory framework for fusion energy systems, building on the agency’s existing process for licensing the use of byproduct materials. NRC staff will begin a limited revision to materials licensing regulations, including consideration of whether the revision should create a new rule category specifically for fusion energy systems. The Commission also directed the staff to take several related actions, including expanding materials license guidance to cover fusion systems nationwide.
An environmental group, Friends of the Earth, is suing to block Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) from seeking to extend the federal operating licenses for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The group is asking the San Francisco Superior Court to prohibit the company from sidestepping its 2016 agreement with environmentalists and plant workers to close the plant by 2025, arguing that the agreement is legally binding. This lawsuit comes as PG&E intends to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend Diablo Canyon’s operations by as much as two decades.
Westinghouse Electric Company, Tecnatom, and Accelerant Solutions announced that they signed a Teaming Agreement to launch a nuclear training program for utilities in the United States and Canada. The Nuclear Excellence Academy (NEXA) will leverage the companies’ knowledge of industry standard and digital technology innovations to provide in-person digital and on-demand training for nuclear personnel at American and Canadian utilities.
U.S. data center and energy developer Green Energy Partners (GEP) plans to use nuclear reactors to power 30 data centers in Virginia and provide Virginia with green hydrogen for data center backup. GEP has proposed 30 new data centers on land next to the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, while also planning to build multiple small modular reactors (SMR), which will power green hydrogen production plants. GEP says it will begin building data centers at the Surry Green Energy Center in 2024, once permits are issued.
Virginia’s Democratic-controlled Senate rejected an amendment to an energy bill that would have allowed nuclear and hydrogen power to qualify as renewables. The vote is the latest clash between Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and the upper chamber of the Virginia legislature on environmental and energy issues.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) is scheduled to visit the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to discuss ongoing safety concerns and the protection of the public and workforce. The topics to be discussed center on the issues related to the SRS’s tritium production facilities and the planned Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility. The DNFSB provides recommendations and advice to the U.S. President and the Energy Secretary regarding public health and safety issues at DoE nuclear facilities.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) announced the launch of the Advanced Nuclear State Collaborative (ANSC) to support the deployment of new nuclear generation in the United States. The ANSC will gather state utility regulators and state energy officials to enhance understanding of regulatory and policy questions surrounding reviews and deployment of nuclear generation. More than 30 utility commissions and state energy offices representing 23 states have signed on to join the ANSC.
Holtec International is asking the state of Michigan for roughly $300 million in taxpayer assistance to help it restart operations at the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station. Holtec approached the Michigan state government to restart the plant to address the need for zero-emission clean energy, with representatives from the company presenting plans to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume operations at the plant last month. The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant was decommissioned by then-owner Entergy Nuclear last year before the company sold the facility to Holtec.
The U.S. government awarded a $428 million contract to BWXT’s Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) for the company to purify and convert uranium oxide to a metal form. This is the second phase of a contract that came about after the government announced it would phase out older operations at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. Currently, BWXT and Y-12 are working on new processes that could lead to a more modern method of purifying and converting uranium oxide to metal.
U.S. utility PacifiCorp has increased its ambition for using Natrium advanced reactors by the 2030s, adding two further units to its plans in addition to the demonstration unit already slated in Kemmerer, Wyoming. PacifiCorp aims to deploy an additional 1,000 megawatts of advanced nuclear resources over the long term as it retires its coal power plants, which is projected to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 87% from 2005 levels by 2035.
Noteworthy Research
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted a study laying out a scenario in which every nuclear power plant in the United States has shut down, and then considering how other sources would fill the resulting energy needs throughout the entire year. Their analysis shows that air pollution would increase, as fossil fuel sources would ramp up to compensate for nuclear power’s absence. The team estimates that the increase in air pollution would result in an additional 5,200 pollution-related deaths over a single year. This study brings more attention to the question of air quality, as well as nuclear power’s importance as an emission-free energy source.
The advocacy group RePlanet released a new report making the case for recycling used nuclear fuel for use in advanced nuclear reactors. The report states that by using current inventories of used fuel and depleted uranium stocks in Europe, fast breeder reactors could generate between 600 and 1,000 years of carbon-free electricity for the entire European Union. Additionally, RePlanet calls on other climate and environmental groups to end their opposition to nuclear energy and support the development of advanced reactors.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report focusing on the latest advances in nuclear fusion, the remaining challenges, and proposals to overcome those challenges. The report found that a limited workforce, limited suppliers, regulatory uncertainty, and other factors pose potential problems for fusion development. The GAO offers a number of policy proposals to accelerate fusion development, including the closer alignment of public and private sector fusion efforts, the sharing of assets for fusion development, and the engagement of the public in decision-making processes regarding fusion energy.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Alex de Ramon, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security
For twenty-five years the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) has developed actionable responses to global security challenges by engaging international, private sector, and multidisciplinary expert partners to assess policy needs, identify effective strategies, and drive demonstrable results.