In this week’s issue, we discuss how the United States and its allies can take advantage of the coming demise of Russia’s international nuclear export dominance and also prevent China from taking its place. We also spotlight a new Nuclear Innovation Alliance report that analyzes how environmental, social, and governance frameworks may impact advanced nuclear energy technologies. Finally, we cover the latest developments from Ukraine and other nuclear energy and security developments.
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Navigating the New Nuclear Energy Cold War
The inability of governments to act with alacrity when presented with opportunity is alarming. This is the case with the coming crash of Russia’s control of the international nuclear market. The Russian government will be hobbled in its nuclear export ambitions as a result of its unconscionable invasion of Ukraine. But democratic governments are not well organized to take advantage of this situation, opening a gap for China to exploit.
There are three key components of this opportunity.
First, expanding clean energy. The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that “immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors” is necessary. This requires increased clean energy including expanding the role of nuclear energy as the century progresses.
The ambitions for nuclear energy began to accelerate before the Russian invasion but now have intensified with zero-carbon and energy security the driving rationales.
For example, the U.K. recently decided that it wants 25% of its total electricity output to come from nuclear power. It currently is about 16% of the total. This would require building 8 new, large power stations. One is already under construction at Hinkley Point. Several Eastern European nations are moving toward nuclear energy to replace coal and eliminate dependency on Russia’s fossil fuels. There also is an emerging market for smaller reactors in several regions.
Second, stifling Russia’s energy export income. Countries in Europe that are dependent on Russian fossil fuels are racing to retreat and trying to find replacements for that coal, oil, and gas. This easier for smaller countries and more difficult for major industrial nations. But as increasing evidence of the savagery of Russia’s invasion surfaces, European Union nations are recoiling at the $20 billion they have paid Russia for energy since the war began.
This financing constriction extends to Russia’s income from nuclear exports. The blowback damage on the Russian nuclear energy sector from its invasion already is clear. It will delay the plants its state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, is building in Turkey and likely has killed its joint project with Finland. It also may find it difficult to proceed apace with reactors in Bangladesh and Egypt, and perhaps India.
Third, the emergence of a democracy-dictator divide. The COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion have begun to separate the world into democratic and authoritarian spheres. No one wants to formally declare it a new cold war, but the close economic interdependence that once dominated global trade is unlikely to survive in its current form. Democratic nations already are retreating from their dependence on Russian and Chinese supply lines.
In the civil nuclear area, this will require that alternative technology sources and arrangements be created. This is particularly important because Russia is central to the provision of the uranium fuel for existing plants around the globe and manufacturing the HALEU fuel needed to run next-generation reactors. Russia also has critical test facilities for reactor components that other nations don’t possess.
As Russia’s export power declines, it is essential that it not be replaced by China, which largely has sided with Russia on the invasion and opposed an international resolution that condemned Russia’s violation of nuclear norms in Ukraine. China’s indigenously designed large reactor, the Hualong I, has been approved by British regulators. This makes it an ideal candidate for wider export. It already is operating in Pakistan. And Argentina recently contracted for one of these reactors. China also is developing next-generation technologies.
But democratic governments are in disarray on how to prevent China from replacing Russia.
Canada is a one example. It has been supportive of nuclear power as a response to climate change and it has a thriving small and advanced reactor program. But the government’s new Green Bond Framework, intended to mobilize over $4 billion in support of climate objectives, excludes nuclear investments. This is a blow to both carbon reduction and nuclear geopolitics.
It also puts Canada out of synch with the European Union, the U.S., and increasingly Japan and South Korea. The EU’s green finance taxonomy includes nuclear power. Japan and South Korea quickly are moving away from their post-Fukushima nuclear energy-skepticism as they pursue zero-carbon commitments and energy security.
The U.S. government is providing billions in support for existing and future nuclear plants. With that investment it should be providing leadership and developing strategy to seize the nuclear export offensive. But it’s not. And it’s unclear who in the government should or could formulate this plan or if it’s even a priority consideration.
This is in contrast to the seriousness displayed by the U.K. The British Prime Minister gathered the leaders of the nation’s nuclear industry to discuss ways to “rapidly accelerate nuclear projects in the U.K” in advance of its commitment to new plants.
This type of meeting is needed in the U.S. but hasn’t been convened, and perhaps not even contemplated. It also needs to be extended multilaterally. A high-level government-industry gathering of democratic nation nuclear suppliers is needed.
The agenda for this gathering is clear. Ensure that Russia cannot resurrect its nuclear export dominance. Prevent China for replacing Russia. Identify mechanisms for democratic governments and companies to collaborate to build the large reactors nations want, while sharing supply chains and profits. Develop a strategy for controlling the emerging small reactor market. And maintain and improve high levels of nuclear governance and global security.
The U.S. and its allies have been waiting for an opportunity to depose Russia as the global nuclear export leader. The opportunity and agenda is now before them. The time to act is now.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

A new report from the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) provides an introduction to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks and how they may affect advanced nuclear energy technologies and projects. It includes potential actions the nuclear industry and financial community should consider to promote consistent analytical treatment of nuclear energy within ESG frameworks and efficient access to capital for nuclear investments.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports

According to the IAEA, Russian troops transferred control of the Chernobyl NPP back to Ukraine. The Russian troops held the power plant since February 24. The agency added that it has not been able to confirm reports of Russian forces receiving high doses of radiation while being in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
IAEA director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, held talks in Ukraine with senior government officials on delivering urgent technical assistance to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities. This includes sending IAEA exports to “prioritized facilities” and sending safety and security supplies including monitoring and emergency equipment. The IAEA chief has been pressing for an agreement with Ukraine and Russia on the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine’s nuclear sector is taking steps to remove Russian influence from its operations. The immediate cause appears to be concerns about possible sabotage of nuclear power plants and fuel-handling operations from within. Uneasiness about the possible enemy within surfaced last week when SUSPLINE reported that an official with the state nuclear power company had been detained.
U.S. Senator John Barrasso introduced legislation to prohibit the import of Russian uranium to the United States. This bill is just the latest effort to remove Russian energy from the American marketplace in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration has already banned imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal.
Nuclear Collaborations
The United States and Latvia announced a new partnership under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program. The U.S.-Latvia FIRST project will draw on expertise for policy and technical exchanges focused on topics such as workforce development, regulatory development, and familiarization with advanced nuclear energy technologies to support Latvia’s energy independence and security and climate priorities.
In the Czech Republic, the state-owned power company CEZ has set aside space at the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant for the country’s first small modular reactor (SMR). This SMR is just the latest of three new nuclear reactors being planned by the Czech government. Through the expansion of nuclear power plants, the Czech Republic is aiming to source nearly 60% of the country’s electricity from nuclear energy.
Polish President Andrzej Duda hailed his country’s nuclear partnership with the United States, especially as the Russian invasion of Ukraine necessitates the diversification of its energy supplies. Diplomatic notes exchanged by Poland and the United States regarding cooperation in the development of Poland’s civil nuclear power program officially entered into force in 2021. U.S. companies Westinghouse and NuScale Power have already signed agreements to export nuclear technology to Poland.
French utility EDF said it would have to announce new delays and cost overruns for its Hinkley Point C nuclear plant project in Britain. This delay is partially caused by the Ukrainian conflict, supply chain disruption, and inflation. The plant was originally expected to open in 2025 but has been subjected to repeated delays and spiraling costs.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Following the introduction of Canada’s Green Bond Framework, Canada’s nuclear industry is shocked that it has been excluded from the country’s new green taxonomy. The federal government has also locked nuclear out of other supporting fiscal measures such as a green manufacturing tax credit, an accelerated capital cost allowance, and an investment tax credit. A petition calling on the Canadian government to include nuclear within the Canada Green Bond Framework was signed by over 7,000 people within a week of being posted.
The IAEA hosted the first ever conference on the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A/CPPNM). During the weeklong conference, the delegations of the A/CPPNM Parties shared their experiences in CPPNM implementation. Discussions included steps taken to ensure physical protection of nuclear facilities and their materials, to increase international cooperation, and actions implemented to criminalize offenses involving nuclear material or facilities.
Following the latest report from the IPCC Working Group III, Director General of the World Nuclear Association Sama Bilbao y Leon emphasized nuclear energy’s critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Some of the recommendations made by Bilbao y Leon include enabling a significant acceleration in the deployment of new nuclear power plants, investing in the development of new nuclear technologies, and maximizing the mitigation potential of existing nuclear reactors.

According to a recent survey from the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, 53% of Japan’s population surveyed supported restarting decommissioned nuclear reactors. This marks the first time that a majority of Japan’s population has supported nuclear power since the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdown. Japan has suffered recent energy outages as a result of increased fuel and electricity prices stemming from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The IAEA’s Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation (SALTO) review mission finished their review of South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power plant. The plant’s operator Eskom wants to extend the two units’ lives by 20 years, and the IAEA experts focused on aspects essential to safe long-term operation. A final IAEA report is to be submitted to the plant management, South Africa’s government, and the country’s nuclear regulator within three months.
As Poland plans to build its first nuclear power plant, Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report. The EIA report examines the environmental impact of constructing and operating the nuclear power plant. Last December, Poland chose the seaside towns of Lubiatowo and Kopalino as the preferred location for its first nuclear plant.
India’s Department of Atomic Energy is preparing to start building reactors in “fleet” mode beginning with the first concrete for two pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Kaiga in Karnataka. The first concrete for Kaiga units 5 and 6 is expected in 2023, followed by several more units over 2024 and 2025.
Four provincial governments in Canada are pushing ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power. Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Alberta released their strategic plan to expand the nuclear industry through the development of small modular reactors. The provinces’ strategic plan aims to position Canada as a global exporter of SMR technology for use in both on-grid and off-grid applications.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
According to recent regulatory filings by Centrus Energy, the uranium fuel broker and enrichment company was to have its new enrichment cascade for high assay low-enriched uranium ready to start up on April 7. Under the contract awarded by the Department of Energy, Centrus was supposed to produce a small amount of HALEU fuel by June of this year. However, the two sides are now working on a new contract by May 20 due to delayed delivery of government furnished equipment.
The Japan Bank for International Cooperation purchased a $110 million stake in the Portland-based NuScale Power. NuScale said it is proceeding to take its shares public later this year through a special purpose acquisition company. NuScale said that the Japan Bank for International Cooperation will own an 8% or 9% share of NuScale stock.
The Ohio State House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would create the Ohio Nuclear Development Authority within the Ohio Department of Development. The new authority would be responsible for the development of advanced nuclear reactor commercialization, isotope production, and nuclear waste reduction.
According to a new report from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not properly inspect equipment at Diablo Canyon months before a leak in its cooling system shut down the nuclear power plant. The report said its investigation found that the NRC failed to identify piping insulation on the AFW system that had long been in a degraded condition. The OIG says PG&E, which operates the plant, has since remedied the AFW system failure and made improvements.
At a meeting held on March 17th, the White House said it is developing a bold vision to accelerate the deployment of nuclear fusion. The Department of Energy will launch an agency-wide initiative to develop a ten-year strategy to accelerate the viability of commercial fusion energy in partnership with the private sector. Congress also included $45 million for a new fusion program in which private companies will partner with the Department to build new fusion energy devices.
Indiana governor Eric Holcomb signed a law that will incentivize the construction of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Indiana. The bill requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to adopt rules concerning the granting of certificates of public convenience for the construction, purchase, or lease of SMRs. Indiana has joined a growing list of states looking into SMRs for future energy production as their coal-fired plants are retired.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
According to the Ukrainian parliament, Russian force fired at a nuclear research facility near the city of Kharkiv. However, they stated that it is impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to the ongoing hostilities. Earlier this month, the grounds of the Institute of Physics and Technology were hit by Russian shells, but the facility’s director said the core housing nuclear fuel remained intact.
The U.S. Department of Justice has alleged that three Russian spies spent five years targeting energy infrastructure in 135 countries in an effort to enable the Russian government to gain remote control of power plants. These three individuals are accused of using spearphishing and other tactics to target more than 500 different entities, including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. U.S. President Joe Biden warned that intelligence shows the Russian government is considering cyberattacks against the United States in response to sanctions.
Noteworthy Research
Researchers at the Centre for Science of Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College London published research that details specific nuclear security and safeguards issues for nuclear reactor designs. The research recommends that security-by-design and safeguards-by-design should be implemented or encouraged by developers, operators, regulatory bodies, national governments, and the IAEA. Engagement between these groups will be crucial to ensure that opportunities are not missed to integrate nuclear security and safeguards considerations into SMRs and AMRs at the earliest possible stage.
The Nuclear Conversation
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