In this issue, we highlight potential Russian and Indian collaboration in building nuclear power plants in the developing world. We also note the latest civil nuclear policy trends in Europe regarding small modular reactors. Finally, we bring attention to a new IAEA safeguards course providing a response to nuclear emergencies caused by natural disasters or other incidents.
Boris Can Bend the Curve on Climate and Nuclear Security
This year will feature two bookend events that have the potential to significantly reshape how and whether the global community effectively attacks the entwined nuclear energy and climate change challenges. Next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold an International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) in Vienna. In November the 26th meeting of the United Nation’s climate talks will convene in Glasgow, Scotland.

The ICONS event is the third of its kind and it has gotten less, not more, bold as it has matured. The focus is on “Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts” an anodyne objective that features a host of retread issues from the four head-of-state summits during the Obama era. It’s not that the agenda is unimportant, it is an admirable collection of technocratic expertise and best practices with a strong focus on information exchange and international cooperation.

There also will be discussions of building a stronger nuclear security legal framework, but that is a secondary issue fraught with political controversy, and therefore likely to remain in limbo. Unlike nuclear safety, there is no international convention on nuclear security with binding, common requirements for signatory nations. Instead, the IAEA offers detailed nuclear security recommendations and an opaque regulatory review process that nuclear-operating nations are free to implement or reject. That does not offer adequate assurances to the global community in a rapidly evolving threat environment.

The real problem with the ICONS program is what’s missing. There’s no focus on the future of nuclear technology and the management of the challenges that it poses for global security and terrorism prevention. The next generation of nuclear power is going to be smaller, dispersed, and operate with novel fuel cycles. It most likely will be deployed in nations new to nuclear operations. The pattern of population growth, energy demand, and natural resource scarcity driven by climate change that make these new reactors attractive is primarily impacting developing economy nations in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. These can be dangerous neighborhoods.

The combination of nuclear operating inexperience and looming terrorism will place new burdens on the IAEA, as well as the nations and companies supplying these technologies, to ensure adequate safeguarding and security of the reactors. This is a set of issues the ICONS experts should be focused on because it’s barreling down on them over the next decade.

If this was the IAEA’s focus, it would be easier for British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to open the door at the Glasgow U.N. climate framework’s Conference of the Parties (COP) to reframing the options for realistically responding to climate change, including the role of nuclear power. The Glasgow meeting is significant because it marks five years since the international climate agreement was completed in Paris in 2015. Since then, the globe has just grown hotter , along with the rhetoric about the need to address the climate crisis. The problem is that while the talk is hot, the action is not.

A perfect example is Japan. The 2011 accident at Fukushima traumatized the nation and led to a shut down of its nuclear plants, which once provided roughly a third of its electricity. While it has made a serious commitment to renewable energy, it is not enough for a major industrial power. As a result Japan now plans to build 22 new coal plants to drive its economy. A major competitor of Japan, China, continues to add coal capacity at a record pace . The major European industrial power, Germany, is ending its nuclear energy operations, dramatically ramping up renewables, but still won't meet its near-term carbon reduction objectives because of a continuing dependence on fossil fuels.

The U.K. by contrast has made a national decision that nuclear power is a key part of its climate change response. Johnson called for a “nuclear renaissance” soon after taking office. But the pathway is financially challenging, and it will potentially boost China’s nuclear export ability by offering a test bed for its technology. This will complicate already stressful geopolitical tensions posed by Russia’s increasing dominance of nuclear exports.

But if Johnson and allies, including the U.S., can firmly establish at the next COP that nuclear power is an essential contributor to effectively curbing atmospheric carbon, that could spur a renaissance in strengthening the safety, security and non-proliferation regime governing nuclear technology. That in turn, could open the door to a reevaluation by the global financial community and its international institutions that could alter the financing headwinds the nuclear industry and its innovators now confront.

The Prime Minister has stated that "urgent action" on climate change is required now. The opportunity in Glasgow to fundamentally alter the climate response equation so that it is much more effective is sitting in front of him waiting for his expeditious action.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security
Fellowship Opportunity
PGS is seeking applicants for a six-month fellowship as a Della Ratta Global Energy and Security Fellow to conduct policy research related to the intersection of nuclear energy, emerging technologies, climate change, and global security. The Fellow will join PGS’ close-knit, dynamic team, working closely with the PGS director and staff. Applicants must be highly self-motivated and able to work independently and as a team player in a fast-paced environment, providing program, administrative, and communications support to the organization. Applicants must have demonstrated experience in the core research areas.

This is a unique opportunity for an early career candidate to contribute to the work of an internationally recognized non-governmental organization with an ambitious, forward-looking agenda. The fellowship offers a $15,000 stipend for the six-month period beginning in March 2020. 

To apply, please send your resume and cover letter to: by Feb. 28, 2020
Nuclear Collaboration
India’s Ambassador to Russia signaled potential project cooperation between the two nations in constructing nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Africa and the Middle East, noting the existing joint work at the Bangladesh Rooppur NPP as a potential pathway of cooperation.

The U.S. Secretary of Energy praised Brazilian President Bolsonaro for his renewed focus on nuclear energy as a response to climate change. The comments signal growing nuclear cooperation between the two countries, following the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding .
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Russia’s first commercial ready batch of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel has been successfully loaded into the BN-800 fast breeder reactor at the Beloyarsk NPP. The batch production of MOX fuel marks an important step for Russia in creating a closed fuel cycle using fast neutron reactors.

The UAE’s Nawah reactor has been granted a green light to begin operations as soon as March, 2020. It is the first reactor to be cleared for use at the UAE’s Barakah site, the country’s first NPP. 

Rolls Royce has announced plans to build up to 15 Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in partnership with the British government. Half of the project’s initial funding has been committed by the government, pointing to the potential for future public-private partnerships in nuclear investment. 

Construction continues to progress at Hinkley Point C, the first new NPP to be built in England in almost two decades. Chinese state corporation China General Nuclear owns a 33.5 percent stake in the project, which comprises of two European Pressurized Reactors designed by French company Areva.

The British government remains tentative as it considers a renewed funding model for NPPs. Several stakeholders, including French nuclear power developer EDF and British Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, continue to argue that increasing funding would be an actionable step in combating climate change and high consumer prices. 

Finland is hoping to add SMRs to its growing nuclear industry, citing “national and international interest[s]” while highlighting the necessity of nuclear safeguards. While there are no plans to build an SMR, Finland’s nuclear regulator is preparing its licensing system to better suit future deployment of these advanced technologies.

Startup company Fermi Energia has begun scouting locations for Estonia’s first ever NPP. Currently negotiating with local governments, the company plans to build an SMR by the early 2030s – marking a new era of Estonian power supply independence. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
U.S. utility Energy Northwest is considering conducting a feasibility test for small modular reactors near the Tri-Cities, Washington. This comes as the Washington Legislature passed new clean energy standards mandating 100 percent carbon-free electricity use by 2045.

The dismantling of the San Onofre NPP in California has begun almost 8 years after the plant was closed because of a leak in a steam generator tube. Environmental and safety fears voiced by local figures have stoked concern amongst the community, where two waste-housing canisters will remain to store fuel.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Researchers at New Mexico State University and North Carolina State University are working on a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop an artificial intelligence-based management control system for NPPs to aid operators in accident mitigation and management.

A new course by the IAEA seeks to educate NPP operators, regulators and first respondents on how to effectively respond to nuclear emergencies caused by natural disasters or other incidents. The course is an attempt by the IAEA to maximize nuclear safeguards by developing new, standardized procedures in cases of nuclear emergency.
The Nuclear Conversation
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