In this issue, we highlight noteworthy research, including a new report exploring the intersection of nuclear energy, climate change, and security trends. We also note geopolitical concerns being raised in the US due to Russian arctic expansion. Additionally, we include a recent workshop on nuclear safety organized by the United Arab Emirates in cooperation with the United States.
Injecting Reality into the Nuclear-Climate Conversation
In the hyper-polarized political, media, and factual environment in which we are increasingly living, it is rare to find an insightful, balanced analysis on the pathway to effective global decarbonization that cuts across parties, tribes and ideological battle lines. Bloomberg NEF, has delivered this message and it is worth reading and acting on, whether you are alarmed about climate change or just support clean energy and global stability. 

The overriding reality is that the scale of the global decarbonization challenge is massive, whether the goal is to achieve it by 2030, 2050, or the end of the century. The most salient fact is that the electricity sector remains at the heart of any emissions reduction effort. The most challenging statistics are that fossil fuels account for 63% of electricity generation and “over the past 18 years, global energy-sector carbon emissions grew by more than 40%.”  

The Bloomberg analysis is brutally honest in its assessment of how these challenges can best be addressed. 

Energy efficiency is important but likely inadequate based on its past history of reducing energy intensity. 

Wind and solar power, after an investment of $3 trillion, provides a combined 7% of global electricity at present. To deliver a 20%-45% decrease in emissions via wind and solar, you would need to “add two to four times as much capacity in the next decade as has been added in the last two decades.” Other scenarios require even greater volume, perhaps up to 5-10 times the current global capacity of wind and solar. This is not to say that it can’t be done. But it hasn’t yet been demonstrated.

The underlying theme in the Bloomberg analysis is that the world cannot afford to abandon current or future nuclear power if it hopes to meet its climate objectives. But, even with this positive assessment the future prospects for nuclear power are not on a trajectory for success.

The situation in Europe provides some instructive comparisons. The U.K. cut in half its CO 2 intensity by ramping up renewables to 34% of its power and maintaining its nuclear capacity. By contrast, Germany, in 2018 provided 36% renewable power but is shutting its nuclear power plants, resulting in CO 2 intensity that is twice that of the U.K. France, which produces 72% of its power from nuclear generation has a CO 2 emissions intensity of less than half the U.K. 

Sounds compelling, but there are serious challenges. In the U.S., for example, existing nuclear plants are shutting down because they cannot economically compete with cheap natural gas. Without a prioritization of emissions reduction, low cost wins in many American energy markets. There also are nuclear decommissioning and waste costs, which are significant.

Further, the cost to build new, large-scale nuclear plants in the U.S. or Europe are rising substantially and the political appetite for supporting these installations has been diminishing for decades. The price to build two new reactors at Vogtle in Georgia has doubled. The budget for the new Olkiluoto plant in Finland has tripled. They, like the Hinckley C plant in the U.K., are years behind schedule. Even in a major nuclear growth market like China, costs are rising, there is political and regulatory caution, and renewables are outpacing nuclear generation.

The question is whether small modular and next generation advanced reactors can help meet the world’s clean energy challenge while keeping costs in check, offering safe operation, and preventing nuclear weapons proliferation. There are many challenges to overcome, including winnowing the field from dozens to the most promising designs. It also is essential to construct a free market economy financing model that will allow OECD nations to effectively compete for this new nuclear market against the state-backed companies in Russia and China and thereby blunt their geopolitical ambitions. And, a regulatory and governance system must be created that will ensure safety, prevent proliferation, and strengthen security .   

There is a lot at stake in how the world manages its trajectory toward zero carbon. As Bloomberg notes, there are “tough choices and compromises to make.” A good start is to take a break from the insular, validating bubbles in which many now live and get a grip on reality . There is no one silver bullet technology that will solve the problem. But, while the ideologues fight, the problem grows.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security

“Nuclear innovation is essential in the 21 st  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
Czech research center Řež has signed a cooperation agreement on materials science studies and research with Rosatom’s nuclear fuel manufacturer, TVEL Fuel Company. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Russia will be deploying its floating NPP next month to the Arctic port town of Pevek. While the NPP will supply electricity for settlements and companies to extract hydrocarbons and precious stones in the region, geopolitical concerns with Russian arctic expansion are being raised in the US. 

Argentina is looking to expand its existing nuclear energy capacity with the help of Russian and Chinese technology, signaling a recent trend among developing nations turning towards Russia and China for nuclear assistance. 

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces General Command, in cooperation with the US Central Command and US Department of Energy (DOE), organized a workshop on safety, radiation, and how to respond to nuclear reactor accidents. 

French finance and economy minister Bruno Le Maire ordered an audit of the French EPR at the Flamanville NPP, thus delaying India’s largest nuclear power project at Jaitapur. 

French electric utility company Électricité de France announces that nuclear power generation at its Bugey NPP could be curbed due to lower flow rates from the Rhone river. At the same time, France experienced record temperatures as a heatwave engulfed southern and central Europe.

The Czech government has given initial approval for a NPP to be built by a subsidiary of electricity producer CEZ, but a final decision on the construction of a unit at the Dukovany site is not due until suppliers are chosen by 2024.

Denis Duff, co-founder of Better Environment with Nuclear Energy, encourages the Irish government to explore nuclear power to cut carbon emissions and energy costs. Duff states that Ireland could decarbonize its electricity grid by 2037 if it uses a mix of nuclear and renewables.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The DOE has awarded $49.3 million for 58 advanced nuclear technology projects in 25 states, including nuclear energy research and crosscutting technology development.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies 
The US government has announced it will secure its power grids from cyber attacks by replacing automated systems with analog and manual technology to isolate the grid’s most important control systems.

A South Korean state-run nuclear energy institute stated that researchers have developed the capacity to identify corrosion levels in critical parts of nuclear reactors, enhancing operational safety. 

The development of accident-tolerant fuels and safer, innovative advanced and small reactors could facilitate the resurgence of nuclear power around the globe. 

Purdue University Reactor Number One has been licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the first completely digital nuclear research reactor instrumentation and control system in the country.

A new study describes how small samples of building materials, such as tile or brick, can be used to test whether a facility has stored high enriched uranium, which could assist national and international nuclear nonproliferation and security efforts.
Noteworthy Research
A new report , released by Nuclear Matters and the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, warns of serious health and economic consequences if additional NPPs in Ohio and Pennsylvania are closed down because of the likely increase in air pollution from replacement fossil fuels.

The Council on Strategic Risks released a new report exploring the intersection of nuclear energy, climate change, and security trends in Egypt. It provides recommendations for the US to revive itself as a global leader in nuclear affairs by promoting safe civil programs and supporting the nonproliferation regime.
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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