In this week’s issue, we highlight the growth of the China-Saudi Arabia trade relationship and its implications for nuclear power and security. We spotlight South Korea’s recent cooperation with U.S. companies on the development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs). Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
Saudi Arabia Turns to China

Over the past two decades, China has become Saudi Arabia’s dominant trading partner. The total trade volume now exceeds that of the United States and EU combined. Much of this consists of crude oil imports by China. But nuclear energy could become a Saudi import from China. Saudi Arabia is pursuing nuclear power and China’s President Xi Jinping has spoken of the need to strengthen nuclear energy as a source of economic growth with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. During Xi’s December 2022 visit to Riyadh, there were agreements to create a joint forum on nuclear technology, a China-GCC nuclear security demonstration center, and for China to provide training opportunities to GCC countries on nuclear energy and technology. China could be a more favorable nuclear partner for Saudi Arabia in comparison with the United States. U.S.-Saudi negotiations on a nuclear cooperation agreement are stalled over non-proliferation and uranium enrichment issues and the bilateral political relationship is significantly strained. The stalemate is also impacting the potential for South Korea to be a Saudi nuclear vendor, further raising China's appeeal.
Alex de Ramon, Della Ratta Fellow

South Korea is investing significantly in U.S.-based small modular reactor (SMR) technologies along with its domestic designs. In June 2021, three Korean companies, Doosan Enerbility, GS Energy, and Samsung C&T, reached agreement with NuScale Power to provide financial and expertise support to the VOYGR SMR. Two prominent Korean multinational companies are investing $25 million in X-Energy to support global deployment of its Xe-100 Gen IV SMR, and X-Energy is further negotiating with additional Korean investors. Korean companies have also invested $250 million in TerraPower. Doosan, a leading company in South Korea’s nuclear industry, plan to invest $4 billion in new energy technologies over the next five years with a focus on SMRs.
These investments and cooperation contrast with the long-running dispute between Westinghouse and KEPCO over IP content and U.S. export controls related to the Korean APR-1400 reactor. This dispute could be resolved as soon as next month. Both the SMR investments and progress on a resolution of the APR-1400 dispute are positive signs that the foundation of U.S.-Korean nuclear cooperation remains resilient.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear weapons treaty with the United States. Under the nuclear arms control treaty, both the United States and Russia are permitted to conduct inspections and data exchanges of each other’s weapons sites. Last month, U.S. officials accused Russia of violating the agreement.
The normal rotation for three IAEA mission staff serving at the Zaporizhzhia NPP has now been delayed by over two weeks. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Russian military personnel actively blocked the rotation of IAEA experts. To complete these rotations, staff must cross the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian-controlled territory. Director Rafael Grossi has urged both sides to help facilitate the changeover of officials.
Two Russian cruise missiles narrowly avoided hitting the Pivdennoukrainska nuclear plant. Ukrainian nuclear regulator Energoatom said that the threat of a disaster was high and called the act “Russian nuclear terrorism.” The intended target of the missiles was not immediately clear, but they were moving in the direction of the settlement of Pervomaisk.
The European Commission scrapped plans to include Rosatom in its next package of sanctions, despite Ukraine petitioning for the commission to do so. To avoid a veto from Hungary, the EU had considered only putting individuals from the company on the list, but decided not to do so in the end. Importantly, France has urged caution on any such measure due to the dependency of many European nuclear many plants on Russian fuel.
Ukraine informed the IAEA that two of its three operating nuclear power plants, Rivne and South Ukraine, have reduced power output as a precautionary measure due to renewed shelling of the country’s energy infrastructure. Additionally, the instability of the electrical grid also caused one of the reactor units at the Khmelnytsky Nuclear Power Plant to shut down.
Nuclear Collaborations
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt met with Indian officials in Delhi last week and discussed ways to cooperate in the civil nuclear energy sector. He stated that small reactors could be particularly suitable for India. Previous efforts for cooperation stalled over the inability of the two nations to come to terms on nuclear liability. Pyatt acknowledged that this question would have to be worked out.
Canadian and Polish nuclear regulators will expand their cooperation on activities in the SMR field. The collaboration could expand to include joint technical reviews of reactor designs, with the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 specifically named as an example. The agreement follows a previous announcement of cooperation between Canada and the United States’ NRC.
Polish nuclear group Industria signed a memorandum of intent with Rolls-Royce SMR to collaborate on deploying small modular reactors in Poland. The two sides stated that there could be up to three SMRs as part of the Central Hydrogen Cluster initiative to decarbonize Poland’s energy infrastructure. Rolls-Royce added that there may be other opportunities to replace more than 8 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants with SMRs throughout the 2030s.
The State Department has expressed concern about expanded nuclear cooperation between Russia and, which was announced on February 6. A spokesperson for Myanmar’s ruling junta confirmed that Myanmar would build a small-scale reactor with Russian assistance, with studies planned for a future LWR. International experts are worried that the country lacks the needed regulatory and management systems to operate a nuclear facility safely.
China has reached out to the Philippines regarding cooperation in nuclear energy. Discussions on scope and details have not yet occurred. The Philippine Department of Energy plans to formulate a Nuclear Power Roadmap this year. The country has identified 13 possible sites for a conventional plant and about 15 sites for SMRs. The Chinese action follows a U.S.-Philippines agreement to boost nuclear cooperation.
The South Korean and Dutch Foreign Ministers met last week in the Hague and discussed strengthening cooperation in the field of nuclear power plants. The meeting took the form of an inaugural strategic dialogue on bilateral cooperation.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The European Union failed to adopt conclusions on climate diplomacy that had been planned for February 20 due to a deepening dispute over the role of nuclear energy in the EU’s transition to green energy. The debate is focused on hydrogen produced from nuclear and renewable energy. France is lobbying aggressively to put nuclear energy on par with renewables in EU climate legislation, specifically as part of the bloc’s forthcoming Green Industrial Plan, which is intended to compete with the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act. Germany and Spain expressed concern that that the nuclear focus could limit the hydrogen contribution from renewable energy sources.
Electricite de France (EDF) reported a net loss of $13.5 billion for 2022 after recurring repairs at its nuclear facilities limited their nuclear output. EDF’s nuclear output dropped 23% last year, further exacerbating Europe’s ongoing energy crisis and reversing France’s typical role as a net exporter of electricity. Despite these losses, EDF predicts a significant rebound in earnings this year as production recovers.
The Estonian government has appointed the United Kingdom-based Castletown Law company to advise on law and legislation for Estonia’s civil nuclear energy program. Castletown said the work will involve a comparative analysis of modern nuclear legislation pertaining to the development and delivery of advanced nuclear technology systems.
Poland’s PEJ and Westinghouse signed a Bridge Contract for initial joint steps that support Poland’s first nuclear power plant. The activities include preparing a security assessment, identifying potential suppliers, and meeting local regulations. This step will then lead to design work, with construction expected to begin in 2026 and commissioning scheduled for 2033.
Finland’s government granted the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant a license to continue operating until 2050. The Loviisa plant comprises two reactors that have been in operation since 1980, and the power plant generated around 10% of Finland’s electricity production in 2022. The licenses for the two reactors were originally set to expire in 2027 and 2030 respectively.
The devastating earthquake that recently struck Turkey has revived a longstanding debate both locally and in nearby Cyprus about the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is being built on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast. While the Akkuyu site was located some 210 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, there is concern about Akkuyu’s location near seismic fault lines. Cypriot European Parliament member Demetris Papadakis also asked the European Commission on what immediate actions it intends to take to halt further construction of the nuclear plant.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved the government’s plan to extend the operational lives of nuclear reactors beyond 60 years. During the meeting, the NRA’s panel members also agreed on the outline of a new system that requires nuclear reactors to undergo safety checks every 10 years or less once it has been in service for 30 years.
A poll conducted by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun found that a majority of respondents support restarting operation of the country’s nuclear plants. This reflects a significant shift in public opinion, as previously 50-60% have opposed restarting since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011. However, sentiment on building new plants is evenly split, with 45% in support and 46% opposed.
Nine South Korean organizations have signed an MoU to cooperate on the development and demonstration of ships and offshore systems powered by small modular nuclear reactors (SMR). This partnership will also develop marine systems and the production of hydrogen using molten salt reactors. Last month, South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries announced it had completed the conceptual design for the compact molten salt reactor (CMSR) Power Barge.
China continues to make progress in its expansion of nuclear power, with the inner containment dome installed of the Changjiang 3 unit and an outer dome put in place at the Zhangzhou 1 unit. Both units are Hualong One reactors. The former is scheduled to reach full operational status in 2027, with the latter projected for 2024.
Czech energy company CEZ is making investments at its Dukovany and Temelin Nuclear Power Plants to modernize existing safety systems and allow for their long-term operation. CEZ announced it will invest more than $104 million into Dukovany and $162 million for Temelin. CEZ is also cooperating with Framatome to install and modernize control Spineline testers for safety systems by mid-2024.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto accused the German government of blocking a permit to allow Siemens Energy to ship control equipment for Hungary’s Paks Nuclear Power Plant. Hungary is expanding the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, with Rosatom building two VVER reactors.
The IAEA conducted its Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission at the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant in the Netherlands. It evaluated progress in addressing the findings of the previous OSART mission that took place in 2017. The IAEA team found areas of good performance that can be shared with the nuclear industry globally, while also providing proposals for improvements in operational safety.
Slovakian company JESS submitted an application for a siting permit for a new nuclear power plant near the existing Bohunice plant. Slovakia’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority will have a year to make a decision on this application. Construction is not scheduled to start until 2031.
Australian-based uranium company Okapi Resources has raised $5 million to invest in its novel uranium enrichment technology. The new process simplifies the existing cycle which will allow for greater supply chain flexibility. The company is also involved in projects in Florida, Colorado, and Canada.
Brazilian Federal Deputy Julio Lopes launched the Joint Parliamentary Front for Nuclear Technology and Activities to discuss a fourth unit at the Angra nuclear plant as well as the development of SMRs. Work on the Angra 3 project resumed late last year. According to Brazil’s National Energy Plan, the country aims to add 10 GW of nuclear capacity over the next 30 years.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Georgia Power Co. has delayed the projected startup for two units at the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant again. Unit 3 is now expected to begin commercial operation in May or June and Unit 4 between November 2023 and March 2024. Georgia Power also wrote off $201 million in additional costs on its most recent earning statement to reflect rising costs. This is the latest obstacle to the commissioning of the Vogtle 3 and 4 reactor units, which have been delayed for several years and have seen construction costs rise considerably.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, John Barrasso, and Jim Risch introduced The Nuclear Fuel Security Act. The legislation would direct the U.S. Energy Secretary to establish a nuclear fuel program with the purpose of onshoring nuclear fuel production. The ultimate goal of the Act is to ensure that any future disruption in the global uranium supply does not impact the operation of U.S. light-water reactors or the development of advanced reactors.
U.S. microreactor company NANO Nuclear Energy Inc. has formed a subsidiary to develop, improve, and accelerate domestic U.S. production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel. The subsidiary’s objectives will be to develop a domestic HALEU fuel fabrication pipeline for the advanced nuclear reactor industry and related purposes. NANO Nuclear Energy also raised $4.14 million for the research and development of its ZEUS portable advanced microreactor.
U.S. House Representatives members, Buddy Carter and Scott Peters, have introduced the Global Nuclear Energy Assessment and Cooperation Act. This bill’s goal is to bolster the United States’ nuclear energy sector and its leadership in the global nuclear energy market. Specifically, the Act will help build nuclear regulatory organizations and frameworks in other nations, counter strategic competitors like Russia and China, and promote better international cooperation and assistance relating to nuclear technologies.
Holtec International completed the fabrication and delivery of the Centre Stack Casing (CSC) for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U). The NSTX-U is a flagship nuclear fusion facility operated by the Department of Energy, and the spherical device can produce high-pressure plasmas that are essential ingredients for fusion reactions.
Nuclear technology firm Oklo is preparing to deploy its Fuel Recycling Technologies facility which will be capable of producing a mixture of fissionable uranium and transuranic element isotopes. Oklo previously submitted its licensing project plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in December. Oklo is also working in tandem to develop compact fast reactors based on its Aurora microreactor design and is evaluating 15 different sites for deployment.
Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), an entity composed of Bechtel National and Los Alamos Technical Associates, has assumed responsibility for managing and operating the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) had held the WIPP management and operation contract since 2012.
In his State of the State address, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee stated that Tennessee should be a leader in the development of next-generation nuclear power in the United States. Lee said he plans to include $50 million in his fiscal 2024 budget to provide grants and assistance for nuclear power-related businesses that either operate in or relocate to Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority has already obtained a permit to build small modular reactors near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The New Mexico state senate approved a proposed ban on the local disposal of spent nuclear fuel unless the state provides its consent first. The proposed ban has the support of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and will now move to the state House for consideration. The bill is in response to a proposed facility in southeastern New Mexico that would temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants across the country.
Centrus Energy Corp. completed construction of a cascade of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges as well as most of the associated support systems for its demonstration plant in Piketon, Ohio. Centrus began work on the facility in 2019. It received a $150 million cost-share from the Department of Energy in 2022 for the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). Centrus expects to begin demonstrating HALEU at the Piketon plant by the end of this year.
Several U.S. universities are expressing interest in nuclear microreactors for electricity and as a means to replace coal and gas-fired energy. Nuclear reactors have already been used on campuses for research, but using them for energy generation is a new development. Some of the interested universities include the University of Illinois, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Penn State University, and Purdue University.
Noteworthy Research
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a synopsis of the Bloomberg report on Russia’s nuclear exports around the world. According to Russian customs data, Russia has exported just over $1 billion worth of nuclear energy-related goods and materials since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. This points to the continuing prominence of Russian nuclear energy exports. The report recommends that Western powers couple any sanctions on Rosatom and Russian nuclear trade with broader diplomatic engagement with Russian nuclear partners such as Hungary and Turkey.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its first update of its regulatory guide to strengthen cybersecurity at nuclear power plants. The revision incorporates references to industry guidance on identifying and protecting critical digital assets and also clarifies guidance on comprehensive protections for cybersecurity systems. The NRC originally published its cybersecurity guide in 2010 covering structures, systems, and components important to radiological health and safety at NRC-licensed nuclear power plants.
The International Energy Agency released a report forecasting the growth in renewable and nuclear energy supplies and global electricity demand. According to the report, renewables and nuclear power are expected to meet more than 90% of the increase in global electricity demand over the next three years. During this period, renewable power generation is set to increase more than all other sources combined, with an annualized growth of over 9%. While nuclear output declined in 2022 for a variety of reasons, it is expected to grow by 3.6% per year between 2023 and 2025.
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.