In this week’s issue, we discuss the United States’ efforts to revive its domestic and international nuclear competitiveness and counter Russia and China as the preeminent global nuclear suppliers. We spotlight the United Kingdom’s plans to add up to eight more nuclear reactors as part of its low-carbon energy strategy. Finally, we cover the ongoing activities in international nuclear power projects and global nuclear security.
Congress Jumpstarts America's Nuclear Geopolitical Power
It’s Deja Vu all over again as the Congress prods a hesitant executive branch to effectively deal with glaring global nuclear challenges.
The last time this happened was in 1991, when then Senators Nunn and Lugar imposed on a reluctant Bush administration a program to control post-Soviet “loose nukes.” That evolved into one of the most successful nuclear security efforts in history.
This time it's Senators Risch and Manchin who have introduced necessary bipartisan legislation to reduce the influence of Russia and China in global civil nuclear commerce and strengthen U.S. and allied nation positioning on international nuclear exports. The Biden administration would be wise to quickly embrace this bill and implements its policies.
The concerns of the Senators are very clear. Neither Russia nor China can be allowed to dominate international civil nuclear trade. The U.S. must work with its allies to develop an export strategy that prevents this outcome.
As Risch notes, the global security stakes are high. Reestablishing American leadership in nuclear energy is critical for “global standards for nonproliferation and other national security interests.”
Manchin states, “Russia and China aggressively use their state-owned and operated civil nuclear programs as coercive tools to the detriment of other nations’ energy security and our global nonproliferation efforts.”
In the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, energy security has exploded back onto the global agenda as nations flee from dependency on Russian oil and gas. Around the world, interest in nuclear power is growing in part because it accounts for more than 50% of the carbon free electricity generation in large, industrialized nations including, the U.S., France, and South Korea and offers energy security.
The core of the senator’s demands is the establishment of a White House office and senior-level staff that will coordinate overall U.S. civil nuclear cooperation and export strategy. The office reports directly to the President.
This is a necessary position that the current administration has been reluctant to establish. The legislation identifies the disparate elements of an effective nuclear export strategy that need to be pulled together. These include private-public financing, regulatory harmonization, enhanced safeguards and security, and a standardized licensing framework.

These issues aren’t new, and they are not being ignored by the responsible government agencies. But that’s the problem. There are a number of different agencies that are working on the component parts. They are coordinating with one another, but a coherent and effective strategy has yet to emerge, and the White House hasn’t prioritized this outcome.
Further, this export strategy needs to be synched with the major advanced nuclear energy technology program that aims to have “fully functional” next-generation reactor by 2027. And it needs to be paired with a much more aggressive and effective diplomatic and technical outreach effort to potential purchasing nations of these next-gen reactors.
The foundation for the success of the Risch-Manchin approach has been laid by the deep damage Russia has done to its own nuclear industry’s dominance of the current international reactor market.
Russia’s access to the financial capital and the supply chains required to complete existing plants under contract, is being severely curtailed by the response to the Ukraine invasion. It’s attack on Ukraine’s civil nuclear power plants have made it a global security pariah. Its potential customers are recoiling from purchase agreements. But China is waiting in the wings with its hot nuclear production lines and numerous Belt and Road tentacles.
The one area where Russia is still in control is the supply of global nuclear fuel. Here the legislation proposes the creation of a U.S. Nuclear Fuels Security Initiative which is designed to increase the domestic production of low-enriched and high-assay low-enriched uranium fuels for existing and future reactors.
As a forcing mechanism for progress, the Senators propose a biennial summit on nuclear safety, security, safeguards, and sustainability paired with a nuclear vendor exhibition. This proposal echoes the Obama-era Nuclear Security Summits which led to many new and valuable milestones.
Sometimes it is difficult for the executive branch to peer beyond its daily crises and commitments to see how the global landscape is shifting and what new responses are needed. That’s not ineffectiveness it’s the obscuring fog of daily business and entrenched operating procedures. The Congress has the capacity to look over the horizon.
When the Soviet Union fell and its communist-designed nuclear control system split open, the Congress responded with a then-radical new approach of cooperating with our former enemy to corral loose nukes. With the rising importance of nuclear technology as a global clean energy force and a source of geopolitical competition, the Congress is again offering an effective roadmap to respond to new realities. This time it’s to contain the dangerous ambitions of our authoritarian nuclear energy competitors.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

As part of the United Kingdom’s new energy strategy, up to eight more nuclear reactors could be approved on existing sites. The government has also announced that a new body called Great British Nuclear will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity, with the hope that by 2050 up to 24 GW of electricity will come from nuclear energy. Under the government’s new energy plans, up to 95% of the UK’s electricity could come from low-carbon sources by 2030.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports

After Russian troops withdrew from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that direct communications have been restored between the power plant and the state atomic regulator. Following Russian forces pulling out from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials report that radiation levels in the area are now higher than usual. Ukraine released footage of trenches dug up by Russian soldiers and a Russian military ration box that exhibited radiation levels 50 times above naturally occurring values. Russian troops held control of Chernobyl for a month and are thought to have been operating in contaminated areas most of the time. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi added that he would lead a team of experts to the plant later this month to carry out a series of assessments.
Following a decision by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) ruling body, Russia has been suspended from the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency. The suspension will enter into force on May 11. The NEA is a specialized agency within the framework of the OECD which assists its members in maintaining and developing the bases required for a safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Despite the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hungary recently received its first shipment of Russian nuclear fuel for the Hungarian Paks reactor by air. Due to the war rendering rail shipments impossible, Hungary was forced to find an alternative way of shipping. Hungary continues with ambitions to expand its Russian-built 2-gigawatt Paks nuclear power plant with two Russian-made VVER reactors, each with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts.
Nuclear Collaborations
Kairos Power has assembled leading North American utilities and generating companies to launch an advanced nuclear development consortium to support the development of Kairos’ advanced fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor technology. The purpose of the consortium is to bring together best in-class nuclear owners and operators to advise on the development of KP-FHR technology, licensing, manufacturing, construction, and commercialization. Kairos Power is planning to develop a non-nuclear demonstration reactor before developing its 140 MWE/unit commercial reactor to operate at grid scale.
As the United States and Canada continue to engage on nuclear energy issues, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Ontario Power Generation announced they will jointly work to help develop small modular reactors as a long-term source of energy in both Canada and the United States. The agreement allows the companies to coordinate their explorations into the design, licensing, construction, and operation of SMRs. Both are preparing to deploy SMRs in the near future.
Ontario Power Generation subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners has agreed to work with the Estonian nuclear-energy company Fermi Energia to support the development of small modular reactors in Estonia. Fermi Energia launched a feasibility study on the suitability of SMR technology for Estonia’s electrical supply in 2019. In early 2021, the Estonian government announced plans to halt the production of shale oil by 2035 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The U.S. Westinghouse Electric Co. and France’s Framatome have been selected to deliver fuel supplies for the Czech Republic’s Temelin nuclear plant as it seeks to ease the country’s dependence on Russian nuclear fuel. State-controlled power company CEZ said that Westinghouse and Framatom will deliver nuclear fuel for about 15 years. The Czech Republic has doubled down on nuclear power and renewable energy sources after deciding to phase out coal as a fuel for power generation by 2033.
Denmark’s Seaborg Technologies signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) to develop a floating power generation plant using a compact molten salt reactor (CMSR). The MoU is for technical cooperation to develop a CMSR with a maximum output of 800 MW by the end of 2022. The final goal is to develop hydrogen and ammonia production facilities using electricity produced by floating power generation facilities.
As the Argentinian government grapples with high debt levels, the country is pushing for China to fully finance a new $8.3 billion nuclear power plant in the country. Argentina signed an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for construction of the Atucha III nuclear power plant in February, with CNNC financing 85% of the cost. The new plant will add 1,200 megawatts to Argentina’s electric grid and raise the nuclear share of installed power to 8% in coming years.
In Canada, Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) have agreed to work together to collaborate on regulatory strategies and other enablers for a new nuclear fleet. The two companies will also evaluate potential opportunities for the future deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) and other new nuclear technologies. Microreactors are one of the three development streams for developing and deploying SMRs by the governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Alberta in March.
Canadian companies Moltex Energy Canada Inc. and SNC-Lavalin Group announced a strategic partnership to advance clean nuclear energy. SNC-Lavalin will support the development and deployment of Moltex’s innovative nuclear technologies such as Generation IV molten salt reactors to help achieve net zero carbon emissions and help reduce nuclear waste. This agreement has already garnered recognition and support from the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Ontario.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Despite growing calls for Germany to eliminate its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, the German government states it is not going to change its position to shut down its last nuclear reactors by the end of the year. The government cites several legal difficulties and logistical problems to justify this position, including the lack of fresh uranium rods and the need to carry out new safety inspections and relicense the plants.
British firm Rolls Royce’s design for a small modular reactor (SMR) is expected to receive UK regulatory approval by mid-2024 and be able to produce grid power by 2029. The British government backed Rolls Royce’s $546 million funding round in November to develop the country’s first SMR. British policymakers hope SMRs will help cut dependence on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions.
According to a recent tally of electrical power company data, Japan’s nuclear power plants have over 57,000 tons of large equipment that already have or in time will become radioactive industrial waste. The scale of the waste underscores an ongoing move within the Japanese government to re-examine rules banning the exports of radioactive waste and potentially disposing of the industrial waste overseas. However, critics say that such waste should be recycled domestically by improving related disposal technology.
As Turkey seeks to draw more of its energy from local sources, deputy energy and natural resources minister Alparslan Bayraktar told Nikkei Asia that nuclear energy is essential for Turkey to reach its 2053 carbon neutrality target for achieving carbon neutrality. Turkey is already planning to build 12 large nuclear reactors at three different sites. Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, and the first of four reactors at the site is scheduled to come online next year.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has installed the steel reactor pit for the ACP100 multi-purpose small modular reactor demonstration project at the Changjiang nuclear power plant. Construction of the multi-purpose 125 MWe pressurized water reactor officially started in 2021 following final approval for its construction. The reactor is designed for electricity production, heating, steam production, and seawater desalination.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Jim Risch introduced the International Nuclear Energy Act of 2022. This bipartisan legislation would establish an Executive Office for Nuclear Energy Policy to promote engagement with ally and partner nations to develop a civil nuclear export strategy and counter China and Russia’s growing influence on international nuclear energy development.
The Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) released a record of decision for Project Pele. SCO will construct a safe by design nuclear microreactor capable of being transported by the DoD and able to deliver 1 to 5 megawatts of electrical power for a minimum of three years of full operation. The reactor will be assembled and initially operated at the Idaho National Laboratory and will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States.
The U.S. Department of Energy is launching a $6 billion program to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closing. The program will let owners and operators of commercial nuclear reactors apply for credits for plants that are likely to shut down for economic reasons. A dozen U.S. commercial nuclear power reactors have closed in the past decade before their licenses expired due to competition from cheaper natural gas, massive operating losses due to low electricity prices, or major repair costs.
The United States Department of Energy announced more than $5 million in scholarships and fellowships for students across the country pursuing degrees in nuclear energy engineering. These scholarships are provided through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s University Nuclear Leadership Program (UNLP). The UNLP will invest in the next generation of leaders who will research innovative nuclear energy solutions to today’s climate challenges.
The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) is set to become the United States’ first High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel fabrication facility. The U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the development of TF3 through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with the U.S. nuclear industry. The site preparation and construction will start this year with potential commissioning and startup as early as 2025.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration warns of the potential for Russian cyberattacks both on American soil and worldwide. Between 2012 and 2017, the U.S. Justice Department says that three Russian intelligence agencies and accomplices targeted the U.S. energy sector, including getting access to the computer network at a nuclear power company in Kansas. Russian cyberattacks have also shut down power facilities in Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
Noteworthy Research
European nuclear trade association FORATOM published their annual report for the year 2021 recapping its activities and European Union policy development related to nuclear energy. The report documents the progress FORATOM has made on its several priority areas, including the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, the EU Green Deal, financing of new nuclear projects, and communications and stakeholder engagement. 2021 also saw FORATOM release a report which provides insights into the potential long-term financing of nuclear projects.
The Atlantic Council released a report documenting China’s use of “discourse power” as a means of increasing its influence over countries in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. China’s “discourse power” refers to a strategy to increase China’s standing in the global stage by promoting pro-China narratives worldwide. The first section of the report provides an overview of Chinese discourse power operations, the second consists of three regional subsections and how each region fits into China’s global discourse power strategy, and the final section offers a preliminary assessment of the policy’s potential impact.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists conducted a poll of citizens in Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on their opinions regarding Russia’s nuclear threats during its invasion of Ukraine. Citizens were found to fear the nuclear implications of Russia’s invasion, distrust Russia’s nuclear decision-making and stewardship, and worry about Russian nuclear safeguards. These findings suggest that Eastern Europeans worry that Putin’s nuclear threats could be more than just talk, and two-thirds of Poland’s population surveyed openly support the development of a national nuclear weapons program as protection.
The Nuclear Conversation
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.