In this issue, we kick off 2020 by highlighting the latest civil nuclear progress in the UAE and Turkey. We also note the increasing collaboration between Saudi Arabia and South Korea on small modular reactor technology. Finally, we bring to attention a new report analyzing South Korean civil nuclear policy and its domestic and international implications.
Russia Rushing for Advantage in Climate Crisis
When climate change-skeptical Russia approves a national action plan to address the ravages of global warming, international security antennae should shoot up. Especially because the Russian government is not masking its desire to use the “advantages” of climate change for its benefit. This highlights the unexpected global security twists that now are emerging from what widely has been managed as an environmental problem.

In response to the second hottest year on record in 2019 as well as at the end of the steamiest decade , Russia faces domestic threats from the melting permafrost of its vast arctic regions. This is in addition to the public health, agricultural, and economic impacts of a warming planet that are affecting virtually every nation.

But Russia shrewdly is looking to turn negative climate effects into positive opportunities to enhance its energy intensive economy and advance its geostrategic objectives.

One canvas on which a part of this strategy is being applied is in Germany. The German government decided after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 to phase out all nuclear power. That made it more dependent on coal and natural gas. Natural gas is about 20% of its overall power production and roughly 60% of that amount is supplied by Russia. Coal comprises about 40% and renewables another 30% of the total. But the remaining 10% is provided by nuclear power production. This is scheduled to end by 2022 and coal is projected to phase completely out by 2038. That is a reduction in 50% of existing base load power generating sources in the next 18 years in the largest economy in Europe.

Germany is already behind on meeting its Paris climate agreement commitment to reduce its emissions by 40% and it is not clear if renewables can span the gap opened by these significant retirements. If not, natural gas likely will intensify as a workhorse fuel. This raises questions about the sustainability of the current German energy policy and the security implications of expanded Russian energy influence.

While Russia will willingly increase its supply of natural gas to Germany, it also is actively pursuing the export of its nuclear technology which can be used to reduce carbon emissions and take advantage of thawing arctic ice accelerated by warming temperatures.

The nuclear export effort is spearheaded by Rosatom, one of Russia’s largest state-owned corporations. It has the significant advantage of operating with government financial subsidization and is an effective buttress to Russian geopolitical objectives.

Remarkably, Russia has recovered from one of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe’s, Chernobyl, to lead in global nuclear exports just 30 years on. Russia currently supplies nuclear-related technology to 35 countries and is involved in 53% of international construction and operation agreements. Russia is the supplier in more nuclear technology agreements than the next four largest suppliers combined (France, U.S., Korea, and China).

While the primary focus of the Russian nuclear export strategy has been on the sale of large gigawatt scale reactors, it also is effectively angling for a dominant role in providing the next generation of small and advanced reactor technologies. These reactors have much lower power, and some are designed with exotic coolants that will allow for remote deployment away from water. These types of reactors may have significant applicability to developing economy nations with growing populations. Key regions with these characteristics include Africa, South East Asia, and the Middle East.

In 2018 Russia had contracts to build 22 nuclear reactors in nine countries over the next decade, including Bangladesh, China, India, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. Russia also is actively pursuing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for nuclear cooperation with a number of African nations, including Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, and Ethiopia.

In the meantime, Russia has launched a floating nuclear reactor for operation near the arctic circle. While the goal of this plant is to power a remote domestic region, it signals another step in Russia’s geopolitical objective of exerting influence over the arctic and its natural resources as the ice cap melts.

The challenges posed by a warming planet are evolving in unexpected ways. The negative impacts of climate change may well offer new opportunities to Russia and other authoritarian nations to expand their economic, energy, and geopolitical boundaries. That will confront democratic nations with unique global security concerns that will require creative, collaborative policy making. Limiting climate change to the environmental problem silo is a major mistake. It has significant implications for global security, geopolitical competition, and nuclear expansion. Making and acting on those connections now can avoid more serious conflicts in the future. 

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security

“Nuclear innovation is essential in the 21st century, a period of powerful technological evolution and intensifying global competition. The challenges posed by climate change and to global nuclear security must be addressed in a strong and effective manner. Advanced reactors are an important response to both of these critical issues.”
Nuclear Collaboration
South Korea and Saudi Arabia have signed a pre-project engineering contract that will establish an organization to lead the commercialization and construction of the Korean small modular reactor (SMR) design in Saudi Arabia. This comes as a revision to the broad memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the two countries in September 2019.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation stated that its first NPPs is expected to start this quarter once its operating licenses are granted. Once all four reactors are started up, the reactors will supply about 25 percent of its total electricity needs.

Rosatom has recently stated that the first unit at the Akkuyu nuclear power facility in Turkey is on target for commercial operation in 2023, and the second unit could begin construction this quarter.

According to Russian nuclear energy company Rosenergoatom, Russian domestic nuclear energy generation reached a new record in 2019, reaching approximately 208.8 billion kilowatt-hours. Currently, nuclear energy composes about 19 percent of total electricity generation in the nation.

India has projected that it will build 21 new nuclear power plants (NPPs) within the country by 2031. According to the Indian Department of Atomic Energy, nine NPPs are at various stages of construction and 12 NPPs have been accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the government.

Électricité de France (EDF) has extended outages at its Flamanville 1 and 2 NPPs, producing 1.3GW each, until the end of January and February respectively.

Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov , the world’s first floating NPP, has been connected to the grid and is supplying electricity to remote arctic port town of Pevek, with an estimated population of 100,000 people. The NPP is set to begin commercial operation in 2020. 

Japan’s Takahama plant and Sendai plant are forced to temporarily suspend operations of several NPPs due to the inability to construct the mandatory anti-terror facilities and measures on time.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The final U.S. defense policy bill includes a new amendment requiring Saudi Arabia, and other countries seeking to use U.S. civil nuclear technologies, to agree to comprehensive U.N. inspections under the additional protocol.

Almost 20% of operational American NPPs are seeking operating license renewals from 60 out to 80 years. Currently, the average age of U.S. NPPs are approximately 40 years old, but up to a third could be taken offline early due to domestic economic constraints.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has recently approved the Tennessee Valley Authority’s early-site 20-year permit to potentially site an SMR at its Clinch River site. The next phases of NRC review would be required to bring the process closer to rulemaking and finally, building and operation.
Noteworthy Research
In the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, author Eunjung Lim provides an analysis into “ South Korea’s Nuclear Dilemmas ”, detailing South Korean civil nuclear capacity, spent fuel management, and divisive nuclear phaseout and back-end fuel cycle policies. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research has circulated a new article titled, “ The Private And External Costs Of Germany's Nuclear Phase-Out ”, which aims to assess the social and economic impacts of Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear power post-Fukushima. The paper, which has not undergone peer review, asserts that over 1,000 additional people are dying each year from air pollution due to Germany's phase-out.
The Nuclear Conversation
For more than two decades, 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.
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