In this week’s issue, we highlight the lack of urgency from the U.S. and its allies in seizing the nuclear export imperative and preparing the global nuclear market for its advanced nuclear reactors at a time when Russia’s grip is weakening. We highlight the new report from the Nuclear Innovation Alliance on improving the U.S. Department of Energy’s ability to effectively commercialize next-generation reactors. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
Lacking Urgency on the Nuclear Export Imperative
Last week the Washington Post published that Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, was supplying conventional weapons materials to support the war in Ukraine.
The article created alarm about the role of a civil nuclear enterprise aiding the Russian war effort. That, in addition to its activities at the Ukrainian nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, may lead to the first sanctions against Rosatom, weakening its position as the world’s leader nuclear exporter.
But the U.S. and its democratic allies are not prepared to supplant Russia as the major supplier of international nuclear technologies and fuel and won’t be unless they quickly shift gears.
Coincident with the Post piece, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance published a new report making recommendations for how to transform the U.S. Department of Energy from an incubator of new nuclear power reactors to a driver of their commercialization and export.
However, NIA’s recommended bureaucratic conversion is likely mission impossible because the U.S. administration is convinced it already is on top of the job. The DoE response to the report’s useful recommendations was particularly vacuous and illustrated the prevailing wave-off of clear deficiencies.
That is a dangerous delusion. There are serious policy and technology gaps, insufficient government-wide coordination, and an inability to effectively survey and target the global nuclear market.
The NIA recommendations covered three critical areas: creating a strategic plan, effectively commercializing technologies, and integrating activities across the federal government. Another area could have been added – preparing the global market for advanced reactors.
The NIA recommendations called for connecting various DoE offices in support of an advanced nuclear energy “Earthshot”. This approach would fuse together the capabilities of the department’s clean energy, national laboratory, and technology demonstration sectors in support of a “comprehensive national strategy for exporting advanced nuclear energy”.
Creating an advanced nuclear energy strategic plan should be a no-brainer. But it isn’t even under consideration in the U.S. government.
A second issue area the report identified was improving the commercialization capabilities of DoE. The recommendations included hiring more business-knowledgeable staff, targeting funding to ensure technological progress, and supporting the supply chain and testing facilities necessary for commercial success.
There seems to be some acknowledgement that these suggestions are needed within the department. But it is too fragmented to organize itself to improve its performance along these lines.
Further, there are problems beyond DoE’s control on the path to commercialization. As the Breakthrough Institute continues to hammer away at, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is creating commercialization roadblocks for advanced reactors in its new draft regulations.
The third issue on which NIA offered its recommendations was the necessary effort to organize the “whole of government” on the advanced nuclear effort. The Congress already has identified the importance of having a senior White House official as the central coordinator for civil nuclear activities. NIA seconded that recommendation. But there is no discernable move in this direction.
The importance of that position is that it could combine the cacophonous component parts of the U.S. government that are addressing the advanced nuclear technology and policy issues into a more appealing bureaucratic concerto. It also would have the ability to identify and target gaps in the U.S. approach and underperforming areas.
One of those areas most in need of attention is the preparation of the global market for advanced reactors. The small size of these technologies makes them a potentially good fit with the needs of growing, climate-impacted, developing economy nations. But most of these countries are not ready for any kind of nuclear power deployment and need a significant support system.
The U.S., however, is not offering this deep level of support. It is over-relying in U.S. bilateral and multilateral summitry on the State Department’s FIRST program. This is a small, important, but ultimately insufficient program with a primary focus on slow capacity building. It also is cautious, awarding grants to organizations with which it has a history of cooperation, but which have little expertise in civil nuclear issues.
Traditional and time-consuming nuclear capacity building is insufficient for the opportunity and the needs of the next-generation nuclear energy market. The window of preparation is a decade or less. The U.S. also badly lags Russia and China in nuclear cooperation agreements in these countries and it hasn’t shown the willingness to embrace innovative approaches to small reactor market development.
It’s not clear what will motivate the administration to change direction. The U.S. seems completely unprepared to rapidly and effectively build the capabilities necessary to break the global nuclear dependency on Russia, even when that grip is in the process of being loosened.
Without a radical reckoning inside the energy department, other relevant agencies, and the White House, the current lack of urgency in aggressively shaping the international nuclear market will remain the default position. And that will sustain significant geopolitical, energy security, and national security liabilities.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) published a report outlining recommendations for the Department of Energy to improve its ability in commercializing advanced nuclear energy technology. The recommendations include coordinating among offices within the DoE, leading inter-agency coordination to establish a comprehensive national strategy for exporting advanced nuclear energy, increasing hiring with a focus on individuals with business expertise, supporting common supply chain needs, and establishing a White House central coordinator.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
The Russian intelligence service (SVR) accused Ukraine of storing Western-supplied arms at nuclear power plants across the country. A senior Ukrainian official denied the claim, for which Russia provided no evidence. This accusation is the latest in what has been a trend of finger-pointing between the two sides about the militarization of nuclear plants and reckless disregard for nuclear safety.
Last week, the IAEA announced that it had established permanent expert missions at all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, in addition to the Chernobyl site. While this is an important step in reducing risk, IAEA head Rafael Grossi also stated that negotiations to establish a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia Plant remain ongoing. Explosions have continued near the site, but Grossi vowed to continue his efforts to make the zone a reality.
New documents obtained by the Washington Post show that Rosatom has been working to supply Russian arms companies with components, technology, and raw materials for missile fuel. This revelation strengthened calls for sanctions on the company, which has not been included in any sanctions package to date.

Poland and Lithuania are lobbying the European Union to lower the price cap on Russian oil and target Russia’s nuclear sector under new EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Ukraine has already called on the EU to include Rosatom in sanctions, but this has thus far been blocked by Hungary, which has a Russian-built nuclear plant it plans to expand with Rosatom. The U.S. has not stated a position on these potential sanctions against Rosatom.
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said the situation at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is deteriorating due to the psychological state of its Ukrainian staff and the condition of equipment. Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company, Energoatom, added that Russian forces have continued to build military fortifications around the nuclear power units at the station. Currently, about 1,500 Ukrainian specialists have been barred from entering the facility after refusing to sign contracts with Rosatom.
Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers approved the beginning of work on feasibility studies on two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors for the Khmelnitsky NPP. The current target date for start-up is 2030 to 2032. Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, has planned a total of nine AP1000 reactors to be built in the country.
Nuclear Collaborations
During a state visit, the presidents of South Korea and the UAE agreed to deepen and accelerate collaboration in the nuclear energy sphere. The two countries agreed to pursue further projects in the UAE as well as developing export markets for third countries. The countries also agreed to conduct joint research and development in the future for small modular reactors (SMR) and micro-reactors, and each state’s nuclear regulators signed an agreement that will simplify future export permits.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation signed the Terms of Reference for cooperation on small modular reactor (SMR) and advanced modular reactor (AMR) technologies. Both sides will work together on shared technical reviews, pre-licensing activities such as design assessment, and sharing best practices to develop regulatory approaches to these new technologies. The agreement will increase efficiency for both regulators and lead to a convergence of standards.
Spain’s Enusa announced that it and Westinghouse Electric Company have formalized their cooperation agreement for the manufacture of VVER-400 fuel. The agreement involves Westinghouse and Enusa manufacturing the fuel at their respective factories in Sweden and Spain. Enusa says it plans for a production line for the new fuel at its Juzbaco factory to be finished this year, allowing fuel deliveries early in 2024.
U.S. company X-energy announced a strategic investment of $25 million from South Korea’s DL E&C and Doosan Enerbility. The investment has been made in a private round of financing to support the advancement of globally deploying X-energy’s X-100 SMR. Doosan Enerbility will engineer, supply, and manufacture key components for the Xe-100 plant, including the reactor pressure vessel.
Poland’s Respect Energy signed an agreement with Electricite de France (EDF) to cooperate on projects using France’s Nuward SMR design. The companies will now evaluate specific sites and detail financing plans. Construction of a demonstration Nuward SMR is expected for 2030 and is planned to take three years. The move reflects further interest in Poland in nuclear power following the announcement of a deal with Westinghouse late last year for AP-1000’s.
During a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden, the two leaders agreed to cooperate in the development of advanced nuclear reactors and SMRs. Additionally, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Japanese Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi announced plans to work on leveraging the use of existing reactors and building nuclear component and fuel supply-chains, including uranium fuel for their allies.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The French government now holds 92.71% of voting rights in electric utility EDF, marking the successful end of the full takeover as it moves to fully nationalize the company. Although EDF has been partially privatized since 2005, President Emmanuel Macron’s government began the process of nationalizing EDF last summer.
France’s radioactive waste agency, Andra, applied to build an underground storage facility with an estimated cost of 25 billion euros. The site is designed to hold all of the material that existing power plants and research centers have produced, along with future waste. The application follows 30 years of research on the site and will now be referred to France’s nuclear safety authority, the ASN.
French nuclear agency ASN said that France’s nuclear safety needs a global and systemic review as President Emmanuel Macron’s government prepares to extend the lifespan of the existing fleet while planning to build new reactors. ASN chief Bernard Doroszczuk also stated that EDF must explain by the end of 2024 how it plans to extend the life of its nuclear plants up to or beyond 60 years. The French government plans to build at least 6 new EPR 2 nuclear reactors and extend the lifespan of as many reactors as possible.
The head of the IAEA task force at the shuttered Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, Henry Puna, stated that Japanese regulators have shown their commitment to comply with international safety standards in its plans to release treated wastewater from the plant. The Japanese government has approved the future release of more than 1 million tons of water from the nuclear site into the ocean after treatment. Meanwhile, the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), a regional bloc of 17 nations, is urging Japan to delay the release of treated water from Fukushima under concerns that it could impact the islands’ fisheries.
Bulgarian Energy Minister Rossen Hristov announced Bulgaria’s energy strategy from 2023 to 2053, which includes plans for two new reactors at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and two more at Belene. The four new reactors would ensure continuation of nuclear energy even after the current two reactors, which supply around a third of the country’s electricity, are decommissioned. The Bulgarian parliament also voted to ask ministers to negotiate with the U.S. government for a new AP1000 unit at Kozloduy.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) authorized the 20-year renewal of the Cameco Fuel Manufacturing (CFM) operating license for the Port Hope facility. The renewal extends the facility’s license from 2023 to 2043. CNSC also authorized the increase of the plant’s annual production limit to 1,650 tons of uranium, which is 24% higher than the previous limit.
Slovenia’s government issued an environmental approval clearing the Krško nuclear plant for a 20-year extension in its operating lifetime, up to 2043. The assessment found no need for physical upgrades and concluded that there were no safety risks in the extension. The plant currently provides 20% of Slovenia’s electricity along with 14% of neighboring Croatia’s.
The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) reported the completion of construction of the outer containment dome for unit 1 of the Zhangzhou NPP. The unit will be the first of two Hualong One units built at the site, which are set to begin operations in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has certified the design for NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR), the first such approval in the United States for SMR technology. Upon receiving this approval, NuScale plans to build a demonstration SMR at the Idaho National Laboratory, with the aim of having the six-reactor facility fully running in 2030.
The Breakthrough Institute published an article highlighting numerous criticisms of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) framework established to calculate the risk from advanced reactors. Among the arguments made by article are that the conditions it postulates for advanced reactors are impossible and that the rules are impossible to meet. Particular focus is also given to the “Alternative Evaluation of Risk Insights” section that is meant to be an easier way to calculate risk.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) plans to submit a new license renewal application for its Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This development came after the NRC said it will not resume its review of the previously submitted and subsequently withdrawn application due to lack of sufficient information to support the request.
The United States plans to test a spacecraft engine powered by nuclear fission by 2027 as part of a long-term NASA effort to demonstrate more efficient methods of propelling astronauts to Mars in the future. NASA will partner with the U.S. military’s research and development agency, DARPA, to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion engine and launch it to space. The planned 2027 demonstration could also inform the ambitions of the U.S. Space Force, which has envisioned deploying nuclear reactor-powered spacecraft capable of moving other satellites orbiting the moon.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $2.3 million in funding for 10 fusion energy projects that will allow private companies to work with national laboratories to address certain challenges in fusion development. The funding is provided through the INFUSE program, which was established in 2019 to accelerate basic research to develop innovative fusion energy technologies by giving the industrial community access to DoE-funded fusion institutions.

The U.S. Department of Energy increased the funding level for its Community Engagement/Consent-based Siting Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) from $16 million to $26 million. The additional funding was included in the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Bill and raises the number of awards that can be competitively selected to communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting for spent nuclear fuel.      
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has begun to identify sites that have the potential to host small modular reactors (SMR) after receiving state-allocated funding for the study. The State of Nebraska allocated $1 million of funding under the American Rescue Plan Act to complete a siting study for SMRs. The first part of the two-phase study will involve a state-wide assessment to determine the 15 best locations based on geographic data and preliminary licensing criteria, which is expected to be completed in Spring of this year.
The Government Accountability Office released a report stating that the National Nuclear Security Association’s (NNSA) plans for re-establishing plutonium pit production do not follow best practices and run the risk of delays and cost overruns. The GAO identified up to $24 billion in potential costs to build production capacity. The federal government has not manufactured plutonium cores regularly in more than 30 years but now faces a congressionally mandated deadline of producing at least 80 per year by 2030.
Georgia Power stated that the Vogtle 3 nuclear reactor is now expected to reach initial criticality in February and to be in service in April. Fuel loading at Vogtle 3 was completed in October. The two AP1000s reactors under construction at the Vogtle site are the first new nuclear units to be built in the United States in over three decades, with both units having been in construction since 2013.
Holtec International applied for a patent for multi-stage compressors that would enable any coal-fired power plant to be repurposed by replacing the boiler with clean steam from the SMR-160 small modular reactor. Holtec said its technical breakthrough would enable most of the physical assets of coal-fired plants to be preserved during the conversion to nuclear power. Previously, a study published by the U.S. Energy Department found that hundreds of coal power plant sites across the country could be converted to nuclear plant sites.
Western Uranium & Vanadium announced plans for a new processing plant in Utah for uranium, vanadium, and cobalt. The plans are significant because only one conventional uranium mill is currently operational in the United States. The plant will use a new kinetic separation process that is estimated to reduce production costs by about 50 percent.
Noteworthy Research
According to a University of Michigan study supported by the Idaho National Laboratory, distributed energy sources such as nuclear can help affordably reduce emissions associated with heavy-duty transport vehicles. Using distributed energy resources to power trucking fleets can also generate annual cost savings of almost $2 billion across the United States. The study considered nuclear SMRs sized up to 300 megawatts (MW), as well as microreactors with capacities from 1 MW to 20 MW.

The British government task force, Net Zero Review, released a report claiming that investment in new nuclear energy is a “no regrets option” to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The report makes a number of recommendations for the government to meet its “Net Zero Strategy”, in which nuclear energy plays a significant part. During the review, MP Chris Skidmore consulted with a diverse range of stakeholders, including investors, industry, and experts in different fields.
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.