In this week’s newsletter, we spotlight the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s 2023 edition of its Nuclear Security Index. Additionally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
PGS News and Views is taking a Summer holiday. Please look for the next issue in mid-September.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) released its 2023 edition of the Nuclear Security Index and held a launch event on July 18. The 2023 NTI Index provides new data-driven insights and recommendations on nuclear security trends in the face of an array of dangers. The Index uses publicly available information to track progress and recommend actions for governments, regulators, international institutions, industry, and civil society to take to better protect nuclear and radioactive materials and nuclear facilities.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant again lost connection to its last remaining external power line and switched to a reserve line. Energoatom said the power plant was on the verge of a blackout as the reserve line had less than half the power capacity of the main power line. Separately, the station’s Russian-installed administration said the Number 4 reactor had been moved to a cold shutdown because of signs of a steam leak.

Energoatom chief Petro Kotin stated that Ukraine’s nuclear power plants held by Kyiv will be fully operational by winter to provide electricity for the country. Ukraine currently has three power stations with a total of nine reactors in the territory under its control. Outside of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine’s nuclear power stations have not been directly affected by Russian strikes on energy infrastructure.

After weeks of requests following warnings from the Ukrainian government, the IAEA staff at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant have been granted access to the rooftops of reactors 3 and 4. No signs of explosives or mines have been observed. Inspectors at the site were also able to examine the integrity of the gate separating the plant’s cooling pond from the remainder of the reservoir of the destroyed Kakhovka Dam, reporting that the gate had been reinforced with bricks and soil; however, this remains a point of concern as the Russian occupied plant has yet to comply with a regulatory order from the Ukrainian nuclear regulatory body for all 6 reactors to enter cold shutdown.
Nuclear Collaborations
The United States and Saudi Arabia have developed terms for a deal for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel in exchange for concessions to the Palestinians, U.S. security guarantees, and civilian nuclear cooperation. Negotiators have now moved to discussing specifics, including addressing Saudi requests that the U.S. help them develop a civilian nuclear program and working to thwart China’s efforts to supplant Washington’s interests in the region. However, Israeli officials worry that U.S. support for a civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia could pave the way for Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons.

Zimbabwe and Ethiopia each signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia during the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum that has been taking place in St. Petersburg. The agreement between Russia and Zimbabwe establishes a legal framework for cooperation between the two nations in the peaceful use of atomic energy in a wide range of areas. The agreement between Russia and Ethiopia is more exploratory in nature, as it provides a roadmap that lays out steps for each party to take during 2023-2025 to explore the possibilities of further cooperation in the future.

Argentina and India continue to further their cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. Following the second meeting of the India and Argentina Joint Coordination Committee, which included visits to Argentina’s nuclear fuel producer and underdevelopment RA-10 research reactor, the president of Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) said that cooperation in areas of nuclear medicine, space alloys, radioisotopes, and heavy water was discussed.

South Africa’s Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and Russia’s TVEL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that aims to combine existing capabilities and cooperate on the production of nuclear fuel and its components. The agreement was signed ahead of the BRICS summit in South Africa that has been a point of political tension between the two nations due to charges by the International Criminal Court against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The United Kingdom government awarded Westinghouse three grants through the Nuclear Fuel Fund to expand its Springfields site. As the only site in the U.K. to produce nuclear fuel for the nations gas-cooled reactor fleet, this grant will go toward the development of more variable light water reactor fuels and support potential development of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuels for the U.K.’s new Gen III and IV reactors.

Terrestrial Energy has signed an agreement with Westinghouse’s subsidiary Springfields Fuels Limited to provide a pilot Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) fuel plant in the UK. Terrestrial says that the existing infrastructure at the Springfields site is sufficient to meet fuel demands for the IMSR development and, more importantly, scalable to support a fleet of deployed IMSRs. This project is being funded in part by the UK’s Nuclear Fuel Fund.

A technetium-99m GT-4K generator was delivered to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as the latest stage in the creation of a cooperative nuclear medicine project between Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Health and Rosatom. This generator will be installed at the National Center for Oncology and Hematology. According to Rosatom, the new center is being constructed within the IAEA framework with the aim of developing advanced nuclear medicine technologies in Kyrgyzstan.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The recent coup in Niger has raised concerns the West African country could curtail uranium exports, possibly hamstringing nuclear power production in France and the European Union. Niger supplied France with around 18% of its uranium between 2005 and 2020, and the European Union receives one-quarter of its uranium from Niger. While the price of uranium ticked up 10 cents per pound following the coup and rumors spread that the new government intends to suspend uranium supplies, French nuclear fuel company Orano stated that its activities in Niger were ongoing.

The Czech utility CEZ launched another tender looking for companies to bid on the construction of new reactors and generators at the Czech Republic’s two existing nuclear power stations. CEZ said it wants construction of two new generators at the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant to take place between 2028 and 2030. The Czech Republic is seeking to further expand its nuclear power capacity, which already provides 36% of the country’s electricity.

South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have launched talks on the construction of additional reactors at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation held a meeting to discuss a partnership on the construction of the fifth and sixth units at the Barakah site. South Korea began construction on the original four APR 1400 reactors at Barakah in 2009, with the first three units already commissioned.

Turkey completed the pouring of concrete for the foundation slab for the Akkuyu-4 Nuclear Power Plant. Akkuyu Nuclear stated that the completion of the foundation slab means construction of the reactor cavity walls can begin. The $20 billion power plant is being built by Rosatom subsidiaries, and will consist of four Generation III+ VVER-1200 units.

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced that the core module has been installed within the reactor building of the ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) demonstration project. First concrete for the ACP100 was poured in 2021, with a planned total construction period of 58 months. The reactor is designed for electricity production, heating, steam production, or seawater desalination.

The Chinese government has approved the construction of six new nuclear reactors at the Shidaowan, Ningde, and Xudabao Nuclear Power Plants. The total estimated investment is $17 billion. China has been rapidly expanding its nuclear power capacity in recent years, accounting for 23 of the 55 nuclear facilities currently under construction worldwide.

The reactor vessel for China’s Tianwan 7 arrived at the site in the Jiangsu province after a 2-month long journey by sea, the day after the unit’s 4 steam generators arrived on site. The reactor vessel will now be inspected to affirm that it meets regulatory requirements. If it passes inspection, it will be installed in Tianwan 7. This comes as part of agreements signed by China and Russia in 2018.

Canadian nuclear operator Bruce Power has resumed operation of Unit 6 at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant following its Major Component Replacement (MCR) project. The Candu reactor is scheduled to resume commercial operation later this year after it was taken offline for refurbishment work in 2020. Unit 6 is the first of six Candu reactors at the site to undergo refurbishment in a privately funded investment that will extend the life of the site through 2064.

Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has presented its final report to the government on how the regulatory framework for nuclear power should be developed and what other measures may be needed for nuclear power to be expanded in the country. SSM made numerous proposals, including removing restrictions on the number of reactors, providing increased flexibility for different types and sizes of reactors, and increasing international cooperation and opportunities for building knowledge about new reactor technology. Sweden’s government plans to present a roadmap later this year for the expansion of nuclear power.

Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy plans to offer a second batch of low-interest loans worth 150 billion won ($113.6 million) to support nuclear energy firms. The loan program was initiated in response to the declining sales of the country’s nuclear energy industry, which dipped from 27.5 trillion won in 2016 to 21.6 trillion won in 2021. The current government has been actively pushing to revive the country’s nuclear energy industry, reversing the previous phaseout policy.

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) head Mohammad Eslami said the country is looking to increase its nuclear power generation to 20 GWe. In addition to the operational Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, construction work has started on the Darkhovin Nuclear Power Plant, as well as on the second and third units of the Bushehr plant. Eslami added that the Bushehr plant has generated more than 60 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.

France is looking at ways to block Velan SAS from being purchased by the U.S. company Flowserve Corp. French lawmakers expressed their concerns that the deal could have a negative impact on French businesses and nuclear facilities. Velan SAS is the French unit of the Canadian company Velan Inc., and the subsidiary supplies valves and services for numerous French nuclear power plants.

The IAEA conducted its ARTEMIS mission in Lithuania to review the way Lithuania is seeking to decide where its proposed deep geological repository for radioactive waste will be sited. The IAEA review team’s recommendations for improving the site selection process include the government establishing intermediate milestones to the final site selection. Lithuania’s Development Program for the Management of Nuclear Facilities and Radioactive Waste 2021-2030 proposes that long-lived radioactive waste will be stored in interim storage facilities until the end of their operational period when there will be final disposal in a deep geological repository.

Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) signed a contract with Amazônia Azul Technologias de Defesa SA (Amazul) to provide engineering services for the second phase of the uranium enrichment plant at INB’s nuclear fuel factory in Resende. The second phase includes the installment of more than 30 cascades of ultra-centrifuges to enrich uranium for the production of fuel for the country’s nuclear power plants. The forecast is that by 2033, INB will be able to fully meet the fuel demand of the Angra 1 and 2 nuclear units.

Kansai Electric Power Company rebooted a nuclear reactor at its Takahama Power Plant for the first time in 12 years. The reactor went offline in 2011 for regular inspection and remained offline following the Fukushima reactor meltdown. Kansai plans for Unit 1 of the plant to resume commercial operation later this month, with Unit 2 scheduled to restart power generation this September.

Kazakhstan’s Energy Minister, Almasadam Satkaliyev, stated that the government plans to hold public hearings and government consultations with experts on the construction of a nuclear power plant. Further decisions will be made based on the results of the public hearings and government consultations. Kazakhstan is currently considering a shortlist of power plants suppliers including Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Rosatom, and Électricité de France (EDF).

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announced a major breakthrough with their patented Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel that holds potentially major implications for Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR). Their breakthrough in fuel geometry will allow the MMR to operate at increased power and increased safety, increasing the reactor's output by three times. Originally designed as a 15MWt and 5MWe reactor, the breakthrough gives the reactor the flexibility to run with both HALEU and LEU fuels and operate at power levels ranging from 10MWt and 3.3MWe to 45MWt and 15MWe.

Japanese utilities Chugoku Electric Power Company and Kansai Electric Power company plan on jointly investigating the construction of an interim used fuel storage facility in Kaminoseki town in the Yamaguchi prefecture. The facility would be constructed on land Chugoku previously acquired to construct two new boiling water reactors (BWR); however, that project stalled following the Fukushima nuclear accident. This joint project comes as Kansai’s used fuel pools are nearing capacity.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Georgia Power has officially commissioned Unit 3 of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant, becoming the first commercial nuclear reactor to enter service in more than 3 decades. Unit 3 is the first of two Westinghouse-designed AP1000 large advanced reactors to enter commercial service, with Unit 4 expected to be finished by the first quarter of next year. The two new units have been under construction for several years and have gone billions over initial cost estimates.

The Department of Energy (DoE) released the final environmental assessment and proposed finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). DoE’s analysis determined the construction and operation of the MCRE will have no significant environmental or human health impacts. The MCRE is an experimental reactor providing crucial data to the development of TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) design. It is controversial because it will be fueled with HEU.

Researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) reportedly achieved net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the second time. LLNL has been pursuing the use of lasers to induce fusion in a laboratory setting since the 1960s, with the first net energy gain recorded in December 2022. The National Ignition Facility is dedicated to pursuing fusion ignition as a means of realizing the goal of nuclear energy developed by nuclear fusion.

Several nuclear policy organizations are calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to finalize a regulatory framework for advanced reactor rules. The Breakthrough Institute, Clean Air Task Force, ClearPath, Nuclear Innovation Alliance, and Third Way published a joint letter stating that ongoing delays are causing regulatory uncertainty for developers currently preparing risk-informed emergency preparedness plans. The proposed rulemaking - Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies - would amend the U.S. regulations to add new emergency preparedness requirements for small modular reactors (SMR) and would enable emergency planning zones for such reactors to be scalable.

The U.S. Senate passed the fiscal year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), along with the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act. The ADVANCE Act aims to facilitate American nuclear leadership globally, develop and deploy new nuclear reactor technologies, and strengthen America’s nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain infrastructure. The House of Representatives narrowly passed its own version of the NDAA, and now both chambers will have to reconcile the two measures and produce a compromise version that can be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The U.S. Senate voted 96-3 to approve an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would strengthen domestic nuclear fuel production and ensure that any future disruptions in uranium supply will not impact the development of advanced reactors or the operation of the existing fleet. The bipartisan amendment requires the Secretary of Energy to establish a Nuclear Fuel Security Program, expand the American Assured Fuel Supply Program, and to begin acquiring at least 20 tons of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) per year by the end of 2027.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepted NuScale Power’s standard design approval (SDA) application for the uprated VOYGR-6 small modular reactor (SMR) plant design. The uprated 77 MWe reactor design means that within a VOYGR plant of six reactors, one power plant will offer customers 462 megawatts of nuclear-generated electricity. NuScale stated that the decision to increase the power rating is intended to support capacity requirements for a broader range of customers.

U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, Jim Risch, Ted Budd, and Chris Coons introduced a bipartisan resolution supporting nuclear energy. The resolution declares that the Senate is committed to embracing and promoting nuclear power as a baseload energy source necessary to achieve a reliable and secure electric grid. The bill is also supported by numerous nuclear companies and organizations.

TerraPower announced the selection of four suppliers to support its Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project in Wyoming. The suppliers will be Western Service Corporation (WSC), James Fisher Technologies, BWXT Canada, and Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Service. These awards help establish key elements of the supply chain that the advanced reactor industry will rely on as new reactors are brought online.

NuScale Power has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a Limited Work Authorization (LWA) to begin early construction activities for the proposed Carbon Free Power Plant (CFPP) on a site at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The combined application will seek a license to construct and operate a nuclear power plant comprising six small modular reactors (SM) and associated common facilities. Early-scope construction is expected to begin in mid-2025, with a view to commercial operation of the first power module at the site by the end of 2029.

The Department of Energy (DoE) is providing $4.6 million in funding for 18 projects at national laboratories and universities to help address critical scientific and technological challenges in pursuing fusion energy systems. The funded projects will provide companies with access to the leading expertise and capabilities to conduct research and development for nuclear fusion systems. The awards are provided through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program.

The State of Alaska has adopted regulations to streamline the regulatory process for the siting of microreactors. The new regulations waive some regulations imposed on larger nuclear facilities and lay the groundwork for developers to utilize nuclear energy to power work in remote locations. Two significant microreactors are already being planned in Alaska at the Eielson Air Base and in the city of Valdez.

Framatome announced that its Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) assembly successfully completed its first cycle of operation at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland. The assembly was installed at unit 2 of Calvert Cliffs in 2021, and testing and inspections confirmed the market readiness of the fuel after 24 months of use. Along with GE Hitachi and Westinghouse, Framatome is currently working with the Department of Energy to develop new fuels under the agency’s Accident Tolerant Fuel Program.
Noteworthy Research
The World Nuclear Association published the 2023 edition of The World Nuclear Performance Report. This year’s edition provides an up-to-date picture of the nuclear power sector, both for generation of electricity from reactors in operation today, and reactors currently under construction. The report includes an overview of the global nuclear industry performance, case studies of reactors currently being refurbished or under construction, and individual country reports.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a new report documenting experience with the zirconium-clad ceramic fuel system in fast reactors and presents the fuel qualification case for a data-supported fuel design and set of operating conditions. The report documents the current state of available experiment measurements, simulation capability, and historic knowledge and lessons learned required for evaluating sodium-cooled fast-spectrum metallic fuel.

The United Kingdom’s Science, Innovation, and Technology Committee released a major report calling on the government to develop and publish a Nuclear Strategic Plan to turn high level plans and aspirations into concrete steps to develop new nuclear facilities. The report warns that the government target of 24 GW of nuclear generating capacity by 2050 and the aspiration to deploy a new nuclear reactor every year are more of a wish list than a strategy that is required to ensure such capacity is built. The report recommends that the government should clarify the role of Great British Nuclear, publish the financial figures for building new nuclear facilities, and increase the size of the nuclear workforce.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Michael Sway, 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.