In this week’s issue, we discuss recent climate news and opportunities for U.S.-Korea civil nuclear cooperation, clean energy coordination, technology development, and management of China’s geopolitical ambitions. We also spotlight the IPCC’s highly anticipated report Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. Finally, we cover the impact the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill could have on the nuclear energy industry in the United States.
Constructing U.S.-Korea Cooperation on Climate and Clean Energy
The U.N.’s latest assessment of climate change concludes that it is “widespread, rapid and intensifying.” Having been approved by 195 governments, it’s hard to argue that the report’s key finding is open to debate.

How this dire prediction will be addressed at the upcoming COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, however, remains an open question.
The task of herding the cats at that international climate confab falls to the U.K. But there are questions about whether the top of the U.K. government is devoting sufficient attention to the task.
The stakes are significant for domestic and foreign policy as the U.N. report notes that the world is certain to blow past the aspirational 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase threshold sought by the Paris climate agreement, and could surpass the fallback 2-degree goal if emissions don’t peak by mid-century.
The U.K., the U.S., and other major industrial nations like South Korea, have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But while the pathway to that goal will be challenging, the process of reaching it could provide an opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea partnership on climate change and clean energy.
One issue that runs through the U.K. hosting of COP26 is the role of nuclear power in meeting the mid-century zero-carbon objective. This is a theme that the British government may choose to underscore from its leadership position.
The U.S., U.K., and ROK currently generate about 15-20% of their electricity from nuclear power and for all three it is their largest source of low-carbon electricity.
But unlike South Korea, both the U.S. and U.K. have committed to the role of nuclear power as a clean energy source for the future.
In the U.S. this means taking steps to keep existing reactors open and providing funds and test beds for the next generation of smaller nuclear technologies. In the U.K., it includes building new large reactors and pursuing smaller nuclear technologies.
The Korean 9th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand 2020-2034 calls for a substantial expansion of clean energy, primarily renewable solar and wind power, by 2030. Offshore wind power accounts for a significant portion of that increase with a plan to build an 8.2 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind project. That would make it the global leader by a large margin, the U.K. Hornsea One wind farm currently being the largest at 1.12 GW. The U.S. plan also calls for the completion of a massive 30 GW offshore wind project by 2030.
The scale of this transition is substantial and has many radiating impacts that are not yet well-understood for both countries. Aside from technical, licensing, economic, and political challenges, there also are geopolitical considerations particularly regarding China.
China is the global leader in the production of solar panels, manufacturing about 60% of the world’s total, and it produces about 30% of the world’s wind turbines. China also supplies about 80% of the globe’s rare earth minerals, which are used in renewable energy, battery storage, and electric vehicles—all key elements of a carbon reduction strategy.
Therefore, at least early in the clean energy transition process, both the U.S. and South Korea will significantly depend on China for their renewable energy components. One danger of this dependency is that China has proven that it will use trade as a weapon against other nations. This stance along with its political pugnaciousness and human rights violations are driving democratic nations into stronger alliance.

China also is seeking to extend its clean energy control to global nuclear power. It has a high profile, at the moment, in the U.K.’s proposed construction of its new nuclear plants. But the rising tensions have led to a rethinking of this relationship.

This opens an opportunity for other nations, including the U.S. and South Korea, to play a role. The May summit between the two nations resulted in an agreement to, “develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects.” If the U.K. severs its ties with China on its nuclear projects new partners will be required.
And the reality is that the U.S. and ROK nuclear industries are reliant upon one another. This has been demonstrated in the nuclear plant construction in the United Arab Emirates. And the collaboration now extends to the next generation of nuclear energy with South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co. commitment to invest over $100 million in NuScale Power, the U.S. small modular reactor company.
Because energy is at the core of modern civilization and economic prosperity, the transition to its clean production will be an incredibly complex challenge for every major industrialized nation. This creates the opportunity for new collaboration between the U.S. and South Korea on the effective deployment of renewable energy, the management of the geopolitical and technology influence of China, and the development of nuclear power in third countries.
This is an agenda that can grow throughout the remainder of this century as the impacts of climate change clearly will continue to reverberate.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its long-anticipated report, reaching an unequivocal consensus on “the total responsibility of human activity for rising temperatures,” and warning that absent drastic, immediate moves to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions the planet will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades.
Following the release of the report, World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said “As the single largest source of low-carbon electricity in advanced economies, nuclear energy is ready to continue to provide reliable 24/7 affordable clean electricity in more than 30 countries that already use it.” Adding, “nuclear energy is eager to join forces with other low-carbon technologies to accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy.”
Nuclear Collaborations
The Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) and the Nigerian Ministry of Power are working with the Russian government on plans to incorporate nuclear power into Nigeria’s national grid.
Nuclearelectrica, the owner and operator of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant (NPP) in Romania, announced that cooperation work between the U.S. and Romania has begun to expand and modernize the NPP. The company plans to have unit 3 enter commercial operation in 2030, with unit 4 following in 2031.
The governments of Canada and Romania signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that will see the two countries collaborate on CANDU refurbishments and new build projects in Romania.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Britain is in the process of reconsidering its 2015 agreement to let China take an ownership stake in its newest NPPs. China’s one-fifth ownership stake in a planned NPP facing the North Sea is deterring investors, casting doubt on whether the $28 billion project will be financed. A proposed NPP 50 miles from London, in which China will be the majority owner, is expected to face strong opposition from lawmakers as it goes through regulatory channels.
A Rolls-Royce led consortium secured at least £210 million in private funds to build small modular reactors (SMRs). The private backing unlocks a matching amount of taxpayer funding, and will enable Rolls-Royce to build the world’s first SMR production line.

EDF outlined its plans to produce hydrogen at the proposed $28 billion Sizewell C NPP in the U.K. when the plant is producing excess power. It is the first time hydrogen and nuclear technologies would be combined on a commercial scale in Europe.
The British government stated that it will explore high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) as the most promising model for the country’s new advanced modular reactor demonstrator. The government will invest £170 million to deliver the next generation reactors by the start of the next decade.
China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) announced it is shutting down the Taishan No. 1 reactor to examine fuel rod damages and undertake maintenance. The decision to do so follows weeks of concern regarding a small radioactive gas leak at the NPP. The reactors at the plant are the first in the world to use the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) design, and the decision to suspend operations at the plant is likely a ‘sign of caution over [the] new design,’ according to experts.
The fifth unit of the Hongyanhe NPP in China’s Liaoning province successfully completed a 168-hours-long trial. The 1080-MW ACPR-1000 reactor has now entered commercial operation. Unit 6, the second of the two ACPR-1000 reactors added to the NPP, is currently undergoing hot functional testing.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) launched a district heating demonstration project at the Qinshan NPP in China’s Zhejiang Province. CNNC is aiming to deliver a nuclear heating area of 4 million square meters by 2025.
China National Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of CNNC, began pouring concrete for the first reactor at the Xudabao NPP in Liaoning province. Rosatom will design the NPP and supply steam generators, cooling pumps, piping, and pressurizing. China will handle the rest of the project, including the turbines.
Rosatom has made plans to build four new floating NPPs (FNPPs) over the next six years to power mining ventures in Siberia’s far northeastern tip. The four FNPPs will be deployed to the Baimsky copper mining project by the end of 2026.
Rosatom Overseas received licenses to construct Russia’s first SMR NPP on land. The two RITM-200 reactors will be constructed in the Russian Arctic town of Usk-Kuyga and are planned to enter commercial operation in 2028. The SMR is based on the design currently used in Russia’s icebreaker shipping fleet.
The Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy denied reports that the construction of the El Dabaa NPP will be suspended, confirming that construction will continue without interruption. Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear power company, began manufacturing the reactor core catcher for the El Dabaa NPP in Egypt, marking the start of construction on the reactors for the NPP.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency resumed operation of the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) at the Oarai Research Institute after 10 and a half years offline. The 30-MW HTTR is an experimental HTGR that was kept offline until it met stricter regulatory requirements imposed after the Fukushima accident.
The Korean Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that dismissed a request to cancel the nuclear watchdog’s permit to build NPPs in the southeastern city of Ulsan. The cancellation request was initially filed by Greenpeace Korea and Ulsan residents in September 2016.
The Philippine’s House Committee on Ways and Means approved the fiscal provisions of a bill that creates the Philippine Atomic Regulatory Commission (PARC). PARC will regulate all activities and facilities involving sources of ionizing radiation.
Senators of the National Party of Australia called for Australia’s ban on nuclear power to be lifted, expressing concerns that the “nonsensical prohibition” was preventing the exploration of an economically viable source of emission-free power. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Under the bipartisan infrastructure bill set for a vote in the U.S. Senate, a $6 billion four-year credit program to evaluate nuclear reactors that are at risk of being shut down and provide them with aid would be created within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The bill would also provide financial and technical assistance to entities to identify suitable locations for microreactors, small modular reactors (SMRs), and advanced nuclear reactors in isolated communities.
Exelon said that the bipartisan bill is insufficient to prevent its Byron and Dresden NPPs in Illinois from shutting down in September and November respectively. Exelon filed Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activity Reports (PSDARs) for the NPPs with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is one of the final regulatory steps before plant closure.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers are cosponsoring the Nuclear Power Purchase Agreements Act, which would direct the federal government to sign 40-year contracts to buy power from new NPPs that use the latest technology. The government can already arrange 10-year power purchase agreements, but the longer-term agreements could help nuclear firms secure financing for the often costly construction.
Several U.S. utilities and power consortia have entered into partnerships with manufacturers to build SMRs. The utilities are attracted to the lower costs of SMRs and their potential to produce carbon-free power 24/7. The development of SMRs is backed by the DOE, which committed to investing $3.2 billion over seven years to support such projects.
U.S. Representatives Mike Levin (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) formed the Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members who will drive progress on the safe storage, transportation and disposal of spent nuclear fuel across the country.
Several U.S. representatives have introduced a bipartisan bill, the National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021, designed to enhance U.S. educational and research capabilities. The bill would direct the DOE to provide no more than four new nuclear science and engineering facilities at U.S. universities, upgrade existing infrastructure, and establish regional or sub regional consortia for collaboration.

The NRC issued its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal by Interim Storage Partners to build a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas. The EIS finds that the proposed facility, which will temporarily house approximately 40,000 metric tons of nuclear waste from reactors across the country until a permanent repository is developed, will have no impact on the environment.
Georgia Power announced further delays in the completion of the nuclear expansion project at the Vogtle NPP in Georgia. The company says its share of the costs has increased by nearly half a billion dollars, and its customers could see large increases in their monthly electric bills if the company seeks reimbursement for the higher costs of the project.
The NRC decided to discontinue work on new regulations that would have created a framework for licensing commercial reprocessing facilities, citing high costs and limited industry interest. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
A prototype fusion power plant is set to be built at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) in Oxfordshire, England. The demonstration plant will be used to prove the viability of Canadian energy company General Fusion’s nuclear fusion technology. Construction is expected to be completed in 2025.
Westinghouse’s EnCore advanced fuel technology, developed under the DOE’s industry-led Accident Tolerant Fuel Program that strives to commercialize new fuels within the decade, is one step closer to approval. The irradiated lead test rods containing EnCore arrived at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where they will undergo a year of testing to support regulatory licensing efforts.
During a meeting of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty Commission, ASEAN member countries committed to maintaining the nuclear weapon free zone of Southeast Asia and reaffirmed the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
At-scale prototypes of groundbreaking vapor-collection technology tested on MIT’s nuclear research reactor and natural-gas-powered cogeneration plant have proven effective. The technology successfully eliminated vapor plumes, recaptured water, and purified the water in the process. It is now being prepared for full-scale tests in a commercial power plant.
Following the SolarWinds hack, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced it is taking a two-prong proactive approach to preventing cyberattacks by strengthening both the front and back doors. The NNSA is also working to improve its ability to quickly detect hacks.
Flyability, a Swiss drone developer, launched the Elios 2 RAD, an indoor drone equipped with a radiation sensor designed specifically for conducting inspections at nuclear facilities. The Elios 2 RAD will help maintain low radiation exposure levels to nuclear facility workers.
Noteworthy Research
New data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that renewable energy sources, which include wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy, officially account for roughly 21% of all electricity produced in the US, second only to natural gas. This is the first time in recorded history that renewables surpassed both nuclear and coal.
A new study released by the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI) focuses on the issue of energy security and the important contributions nuclear power can make towards decarbonization. The report finds that the “supposed dependency concerns” that are associated with the host-vendor relationship in the nuclear energy industry are unfounded, both practically and historically.
A recent national survey by Bisconti Research finds that 60% of respondents favored the use of nuclear energy, with only 25% opposing its use. Tracking public perception of nuclear power since 1983, Bisconti Research has identified a positive trend in favorability since the mid-1990s.
The NNSA submitted its annual report on Transfers of Civil Nuclear Technology to Congress. Of the 30 applications closed out by the NNSA for specific authorization, 15 specific authorizations were approved by the Secretary, 10 applications were withdrawn at the request of the applicants, and one application was returned to the applicant without action. It also reviewed 568 reports on generally authorized activities and 60 reports on specifically authorized activities.
The Nuclear Conversation
The Fourth Generation, August 11
The Hill, August 10
CNBC, August 10
San Antonio Report, August 10
ANS Newswire, August 9
The Southland Journal, August 9
Yahoo Finance, August 9
The Heritage Foundation, August 9
The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 7
The Daily Signal, August 6
Nuclear Engineering International Magazine, August 5
Civil Beat, August 4
Nuclear Engineering International Magazine, August 4
The National Interest, August 3
NASDAQ, August 3
The Heritage Foundation, August 3
The Korea Times, August 2
Chicago Sun Times, August 2
Forbes, August 2
Clean Energy Wire, August 2
The Times, August 1
Pique News Magazine, July 31
Interesting Engineering, July 31
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