In this week’s newsletter, we highlight the necessity for U.S. next-generation nuclear reactors to successfully demonstrate their ability to provide reliable power. We spotlight the United States’ and India’s joint statement on the state of bilateral nuclear cooperation and joint nuclear projects. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Next-Gen Nuclear's Transition to Demonstration
Nuclear power is no longer asking for a seat at the clean energy technology table. It has been given a chair.
But the future zero-carbon contribution of nuclear energy rests increasingly on the deployment of small and modular reactors that are in many cases quite different from the existing global fleet of large reactors.
Those next-generation reactors have been aggressively rooted-on by a bipartisan mix of supporters in the U.S. But the transition is now underway from cheerleading the relevance of new nuclear to making it work at scale.
There are a few examples of the beginning of this evolution.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in the cross hairs of both the Congress and some prominent nuclear-supporting NGO’s. The reason is the inability of the regulatory agency to satisfy demands for more efficient licensing of next-gen reactor technologies. The approval of these designs is critical for the global clean energy objectives of the Biden administration as well as its support for a U.S. nuclear export revival.
But the issue extends beyond the regulations and has put a spotlight on choices and tradeoffs. A prime example is NRC commissioner, Jeff Baran. He has been proposed for reappointment by the Biden administration, but that has caused a schism among environmental organizations that believe that nuclear power is an essential part of the climate solution.
The Breakthrough Institute asserts that Baran is a “defender of a regulatory system that has basically presided over the long-term decline of the nuclear sector in the U.S.” BTI considers nuclear energy to be essential to the achievement of climate targets and its position reflects a wider frustration among other pro-nuclear groups with what they see as the NRC’s plodding approach to next-gen reactor licensing.
However, another progressive pro-nuclear energy organization, the Good Energy Collective, supports Baran. It believes that his record is being distorted and that his approach on the commission is consistent with pushing the nuclear industry to put “its best foot forward.” It also notes his support for the participation of marginalized communities in nuclear decision making.
With Congress out of session for the July 4th recess, Baran’s term expired. It is still on the calendar for full Senate consideration but action on it is uncertain as is the outcome.
It is unusual for pro-nuclear environmental organizations to take opposite tacks on a civil nuclear issue. They have a common purpose in supporting nuclear power as part of the suite of clean energy technologies. But this is an example of the cross pressures that are created by success on policy and disagreements on implementation. More conflicts of this kind are likely to flare as the next-gen nuclear enterprise advances.
A cursory look at the IRA, the largest U.S. investment in clean energy, tells you why. The IRA was applauded by all clean energy allies. But building out that clean new capacity will require a significant expansion of America’s energy grid. That has led to legislation to streamline the permitting process for transmission projects. That acceleration has not been embraced by some environmental organizations, creating conflict between former allies.
Another indication of the pressure on new reactors to perform is the spinoff of reactor development organizations into public companies.
OKLO, an advanced reactor company that has been backed by OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, is now being positioned to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company also controlled by Altman. The company is valued at $850 million, and the public offering aims to raise $500 million for OKLO’s Aurora reactor. OKLO also is involved in a spent fuel separation project called CURIE. Spent fuel separation is a very controversial issue in U.S. national security and energy policy.
Other reactors being backed by billionaires, such as Bill Gates’ Terrapower, have not yet been directly exposed to financial market forces. However, the company did announce it raised $830 million in 2022 in private contributions.
The small reactor company with the most experience as a publicly traded company is NuScale. Its major investor to that point was Fluor Corporation.
Nuscale has an agreement with a consortium of western U.S. utility companies to purchase power from multiple reactor modules the company plans to build at INL. It also is receiving considerable U.S. government support for projects at home and abroad.
However, even with that substantial backing and a conventional reactor dsesign, NuScale’s stock price has been roughly halved over the last year. This raises questions about the financial market’s appetite for new nuclear concepts and potential controversies.
Another feature of the transition of small reactors to reality is the intensified engagement between reactor developers and major industries. Dow Inc. recently agreed to partner with X-Energy on the construction of several Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactors to power its Seadrift industrial site in Texas. This 4,700-acre site manufactures 4 million pounds of material per year for multiple products. The partnership would substantially reduce Dow’s carbon footprint, a benefit for all. The industrial application of next-gen reactors is an area of intense interest.
The skepticism about the role of nuclear energy in addressing climate change has largely dissipated. The U.S. government is now devoting billions of dollars to next-gen reactor development and demonstrations. This serves its climate objectives, the need to out-compete Russia and China for new international civil nuclear markets, and its incipient industrial policy.

The scale of this investment has been applauded by many. But the cheerleading period has ended, and the demonstration phase has begun. It is now time to deliver.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The United States and India released a joint statement underscoring the important role nuclear energy plays in global decarbonization efforts. The leaders noted ongoing negotiations between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the construction of six nuclear reactors in India. One such opportunity is for Westinghouse to develop a techno-commercial offer for India’s Kovvada nuclear project. They also mentioned the ongoing discussion on developing next generation small modular reactor technologies in a collaborative mode for the domestic market as well as for export.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Russian operators at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are ignoring requests from Ukrainian nuclear safety officials and the IAEA to bring the last operational reactor into a state of full shutdown. The IAEA urged unit 5 to be completely turned off, but has been rebuffed by Rosatom. A permanent team of IAEA inspectors have been at the Zaporizhzhia site, but their access to the plant and decision-making power is limited.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been reconnected to a back-up power line for the first time since early March 2022, when the plant came under Russian control. The plant had been relying on a single 750kV line for the power necessary to run safety functions; however, it has had to rely on emergency diesel back-up generators when this connection fails. Prior to the invasion, the plant had four 750kV power lines and 6 back-up power lines, highlighting the impact that the unstable security situation surrounding the plant has had on the nuclear safety situation at the site.

The Ukrainian government warned that Russia is planning to sabotage the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant via planted explosives, while Russia claims that Ukraine will attack the plant with drones and artillery. IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has stated that their experts at the site have not observed evidence of mines or explosives but have requested additional access considering the current accusations as concerns of sabotage continue to rise.
Nuclear Collaborations
U.S. and Canadian nuclear regulatory bodies published a joint technical review that establishes a common regulatory position on tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel qualification for use in both advanced and small modular reactor technologies. This is the second joint report published by these bodies through a memorandum of cooperation that was signed in 2019, with the first looking at Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor technology.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA) renewed their cooperation agreement for the next five years. The pact now includes exchanging technical information on Westinghouse’s AP1000 and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s small modular BWRX-300 designs, with other areas of cooperation including nuclear safety research. Cooperation between the agencies has been ongoing since 2010, when the first bilateral arrangement was signed.

South Korea’s Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang and TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque met in Seoul to discuss ways to collaborate on the development of advanced SMR technology. During the discussions, TerraPower’s CEO shared the company’s new technologies to develop a next-generation SMR and Minister Lee Chang-yang stressed the government’s commitment to supporting collaboration between Korean and American companies in the field.

China is accelerating its civilian nuclear development cooperation with Pakistan through a nuclear deal worth approximately $4.8 billion. Under the agreement, China will construct a new 1200-megawatt plant at Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear power complex using China’s Hualong One nuclear reactors. The new unit will be the fifth at the complex, which was built with Chinese assistance and currently feeds 1230 MW into Pakistan’s national grid.

Four steam generators and a reactor vessel are being transported from Russia to China’s Xudapu Nuclear Power Plant. The production of the equipment was carried out by AEM-Technologies for Xudapu’s Unit 3, which is a Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactor. This is part of agreements signed between China and Russia in 2018, which includes the construction of two VVER-1200 reactors at the Xudapu site.

Saudi Arabia and France have agreed on a collaborative partnership to boost cooperation in the electricity sector. This includes sharing knowledge on renewable energy generation, electric interconnection initiatives, and promoting private sector involvement in various aspects of electricity projects. Saudi Arabia aims to become a leading exporter of electricity produced from low-emission resources, including nuclear energy.

Top diplomats from South Korea and Slovenia held discussions seeking ways to strengthen bilateral ties in the areas of nuclear power plants and science technology, agreeing to broaden shipping and logistics cooperation. Additionally, Foreign Minister Park Jin of South Korea sought support for South Korea’s bid to construct a new reactor unit in Slovenia’s Krsko nuclear power plant. Foreign Minister Park also asked for Slovenia to join international efforts to curtail the threat of North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear programs.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) and Romanian Nuclearelectrica (SNN) have signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in nuclear fuel with a focus on ensuring the resilience of fuel production. The memorandum records the intent to collaborate for studying, planning, and developing of activities with the purpose of potentially qualifying SNN as a potential supplier of sinterable UO2 powder by KHNP. SNN operates the only Romanian nuclear power plant at Cernavoda and hopes to lean on the experience of KHNP in operating CANDU reactors.

Bulgaria and Ukraine have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further cooperation in the energy sector. The MoU includes provisions for joint ventures, projects, and initiatives in the field of nuclear energy. Both nations are expected to promote cooperation at all levels of the nuclear fuel cycle, implementation activities, and services related to prolonging the operational life cycle of nuclear reactors with an aim to improve safety and/or increasing their operational characteristics. The agreement will last five years with an automatic renewal option every three years.

JSC ASE, the engineering division of Rosatom, has begun preparatory work on Hungary’s Paks II site. This work consists of the excavation and construction of a groundwater cut-off wall as well as the construction of numerous auxiliary facilities and buildings. Hungary continues to press forward with its project for the new Russian constructed nuclear units as many other members of the EU have ended any previous deals for new units from Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine.

Danish climate tech fund Climentum Capital and Swedish social developer Granitor Growth Management are investing $2.2 million into Kärnfull Next AB, a Swedish small modular reactor project development company. This is an important milestone in nuclear energy as it is the one of the first examples of a European “dark green” climate fund investing in nuclear energy. This comes on the heels of Sweden’s parliament pivoting away from a 100% renewable energy plan by 2045 in favor of including nuclear energy in June this year.

Bulgaria is negotiating the sale of two Russian-made nuclear reactors to Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom. The sale is being facilitated by Bulgaria’s state energy company NEK, consisting of equipment from the unfinished Belene nuclear power plant with a value of at least $653 million. The construction of the Belene nuclear plant was initially started in the 1980s and has been abandoned and restarted numerous times due to a lack of funding.

Myanmar and Russia held their first meeting of the joint coordinating committee to discuss the construction of a nuclear power plant and the development of nuclear infrastructure in the country. The meeting also covered the regulatory framework for bilateral cooperation, as well as training of personnel and issues relating to public opinion on nuclear energy. The intergovernmental agreement also includes a pre-feasibility study report of a thermal power plant project.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
South Korea and numerous private entities have formed a public-private partnership called the SMR Alliance. The SMR Alliance comprises 11 public and government institutions and 31 private companies. The Alliance plans to create business strategies and form an institutional foundation with the purpose of fostering both public and private capacity to strengthen national competitiveness in the SMR field. The Alliance plans to have business and institutional suggestions prepared by the first half of 2024.

A Westinghouse-led consortium has been selected to develop and provide a European source of fuel for VVER reactors. The Accelerated Program for Implementation of Secure VVER Fuel Supply (APIS) consists of 12 members from 8 different countries and is co-funded by the European Union. With more than 30 Russian-designed VVER reactors operating in the European Union and Ukraine, the goal of APIS is to create a safe and secure source of fuel for these reactors to mitigate current supply chain risks and reduce dependence on Russian VVER fuel.

The government of Ontario announced that it is starting pre-development work for up to 4800 MWe of new nuclear capacity. The new units will be located at Bruce Power’s existing site and would be the first construction of large-scale reactors in Canada in the last 30 years. The new capacity is part of the government’s plan to meet future electricity demand as well as decarbonization goals.

The IAEA held a plenary meeting of the Nuclear Harmonization Standardization Initiative (NHS) to take stock of progress made and to set priorities for the next year. More than 120 NHSI participants convened to share feedback and suggestions on the work that has occurred so far and possible areas for enhancement going forward. The IAEA launched the NHSI last year aimed at accelerating the safe and secure deployment of advanced nuclear reactors and is now composed of 30 countries, 94 unique organizations, and more than 200 contributors.

Following a visit to Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi, the IAEA task force concluded that Japan’s plan to release treated water stored on site into the ocean over the next 30 years is consistent with international regulations and safeguards. The water has been treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which removes most radioactive particles apart from tritium. IAEA Director General Grossi has stated that the findings of the report indicate that the release of the ALPS treated water will have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment. Despite the IAEA’s statements, neighboring nations and local opponents still object to the release of the treated water.

Poland’s Ministry of Climate and Energy has approved the construction of a nuclear power plant in Pomerania. The decision enables Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) to apply for a number of further administrative decisions, including a siting decision and subsequently the construction license. Poland currently has large-scale plans to develop nuclear energy capacity, aiming to begin construction of its first reactor in 2026 and commission it in 2033. Subsequent units will be implemented every 2-3 years.

Turkish Energy Minister Arparslan Bayraktar announced that Turkey is aiming to deploy 20 gigawatts of nuclear power by the 2050s. Bayraktar added that the country wanted to speed up efforts on the planned second nuclear power plant at Sinop and a third plant in the Thrace region. Turkey is currently in talks with Russia, China, and South Korea over its planned second and third nuclear power plants, and with the United States and the United Kingdom over small modular reactors (SMR).

Electricite de France (EDF) reported that nuclear power generation at its French reactors in June rose 12.4% on the year to 22.7 terawatt hours (TWh). EDF’s website adds that total nuclear generation in France since the start of the year has been 158.1 TWh, up 2.6% from the same period last year, due to the strategic postponement of unit outages. On the other hand, total generation from EDF’s reactors in the United Kingdom has fallen 21.5% from the same period last year.

The IAEA completed the follow-up mission to the Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) of Canada’s emergency preparedness framework. The IAEA team carried out the initial EPREV mission back in 2019, with the follow-up aimed at assessing the progress made by Canada in implementing the recommendations provided in 2019. The team noted that Canada made significant efforts to enhance its emergency preparedness while also encouraging the Canadian authorities to further strengthen its national emergency response framework.

Electricite de France (EDF) filed an application to build the first of three pairs of the re-designed 1670-megawatt EPR2 nuclear power plants on the Penly site. The government’s initial estimates of the costs of the six new reactors is $49.8 billion, comprising the two at Penly, two more at the Gravelines nuclear site, and two more at a site to be determined. The action is a key part of the French government’s plan to relaunch the country’s reactor construction program.

Westinghouse submitted four Phase 1 Focus Area submissions to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the first set of documents needed for the pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) for its eVinci microreactor. With a capacity of 5 MWe and 13 MWt, the eVinci reactor is targeted at off-grid communities and mines. Westinghouse plans to file concurrently with the US Nuclear regulatory commission and put the reactor up for joint review under the memorandum of understanding signed by both regulatory bodies.

The first Indian-designed 700 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) has begun commercial cooperation in Gujarat. Kakrapar 3 is one of four PHWR units that have been under construction since 2010, with Kakrapar 3 initially reaching criticality in 2020. Minister of State Jitendra Singh stated that the Kakrapar project is expected to reach completion this year.

The Japanese Economy, Trade, and Industry Ministry appointed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. as the core company overseeing the design of next-generation nuclear power plants. As the core company, Mitsubishi will be responsible for coordinating participating companies such as equipment and component manufacturers in the development of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) and fast reactors. The aim is to achieve the operation of a demonstration reactor for the HTGR in the 2030s and for the fast reactor in the 2040s.

Danish designer of the Compact Molten Salt Reactors (CMSR) Seaborg has decided to switch the fuel of its design from high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) due to concerns over HALEU supply. This decision comes after Seaborg signed a memorandum of understanding with KEPCO Nuclear Fuel and GS Engineering & Construction in June to potentially develop a LEU fuel salt production facility in South Korea. Despite the switch, Seaborg and Urenco will still be collaborating to develop HALEU capacity for future CMSR lines.

The Netherlands is negotiating with three potential and interested suppliers to build two new nuclear power plants in the country. Dutch Energy Minister Rob Jetten stated that the three potential partners are the American company Westinghouse, the French state-owned EDF, and South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP). The Netherlands is planning to build two new nuclear plants by 2035 as an important role in the country’s decarbonization and energy transition.

The UAE’s Barakah One Company has successfully refinanced the full outstanding balance of its loans, completing an important milestone in the continued operation of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. The Barakah One Company is a joint venture between the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). Barakah One’s refinancing was completed under the loan facilities extended by the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM). Enec’s Managing Director and CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi has touted the project as an example of a new model for world nuclear developments.

French utility Engie and the Belgian federal government signed an interim agreement defining the terms for the extended operation of the Doel 4 and Tihange 3 nuclear power units by 10 years. The parties involved said the new interim agreement builds on the previous agreement and defines the terms for the extended operation of the two reactors. Engie and the Belgian government aim to restart Doel 4 and Tihange 3 by as early as November 2026.

Russia’s Research Institute of Atomic Reactors has begun testing on VVER-type fuel elements with uranium-plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in the MIR research reactor. The tests in the MIR reactor will involve 21 fuel elements based on MOX pellet fuel, with 12 fuel rods in the experimental fuel assembly. Based on the results, scientists intend to substantiate the efficiency and safety of MOX fuel operation in VVER reactors.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
U.S. fission technology company Oklo stated it would merge with AltC Acquisition Corp. in an effort to develop nuclear fission reactors and pursue a recycling service for nuclear fuel. Oklo added that its long-term goal is to build a wide-range of advanced fission power plants, as well as to eventually produce energy from nuclear fusion.
Uranium enrichment services provider Urenco announced plans to increase capacity at its plant in New Mexico by 15%. Urenco said the project will see new centrifuge cascades added to the existing plant, and will be the first project to be delivered as part of the company’s capacity program. Urenco’s New Mexico facility is the only operating commercial uranium enrichment facility in North America, and there are an increasing number of U.S. customers looking for non-Russian nuclear fuel.
The Department of Energy awarded vouchers to seven companies in order to accelerate the “innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies”. The vouchers were provided under the DoE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear initiative. Among the companies receiving vouchers include Alpha Tech Research Corp., General Atomics, Ultra Energy, and Westinghouse.
Holtec International received the final license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the construction and operation of a waste storage facility in New Mexico. The HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) will temporarily store nuclear waste from nuclear power plants across the country, transferring and storing 500 canisters holding approximately 8,680 metric tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel for 40 years. NRC issued the license despite backlash from the state of New Mexico, including the passage of a new law that seeks to block the facility.
Ohio-based Centrus Energy cleared an operational readiness review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), allowing it to handle the materials needed to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel. This puts Centrus and its subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating LLC one step closer to initiating domestic production of the fuel needed to power next-generation nuclear plants. This will help offset the Russian HALEU fuel-supply risk, as that country is currently the only global manufacturer of HALEU fuel.
Lightbridge and Texas A&M University are partnering to conduct a comprehensive study on the performance of Lightbridge Fuel in NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR). The study aims to advance nuclear technology and understanding while promoting the commercialization of advanced nuclear fuels. Texas A&M University will lead the study and bring together academic and industry exports with funding from the Department of Energy.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) revised its regulations for the licensing, inspection, special projects, and annual fees it will charge its applicants and licensees for the fiscal year of 2023. The FY 2023 final fee rule reflects a total budget authority of $927.2 million, and the NRC must recover approximately $790.6 million in fees. The fee revisions are required under the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA).
In the newly passed Michigan budget, $150 million is directed to support reopening the decades-old Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. However, the funding will only come through if the federal government provides its support for restarting the facility. Holtec International has been working to get state and federal support to help restart the Palisades facility, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has also pushed for reopening the plant.
Westinghouse and TerraPower announced plans to produce large quantities of actinium-225, a radioisotope used for targeted alpha radiation therapy. Since 2018, TerraPower has been working to increase the supply of Ac-225 from thorium-229 decay. Westinghouse recently announced it developed and successfully demonstrated a novel approach to produce Ac-225 radioisotopes in commercial nuclear reactors, which would enable large-scale production of the isotope.
Noteworthy Research
The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) published a report on deep geological repositories and nuclear liability. The report discusses issues that concern future generations against the background of the currently applicable legal frameworks for the operation of nuclear installations and existing technical knowledge. The NEA states it is important to assess the potential risks that may be associated with this type of nuclear installation and to ensure that an appropriate regime is in place to adequately compensate third parties in case they suffer nuclear damage caused by a deep geological reserve.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a joint report establishing a common regulatory position on tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel. The report is part of the cooperative activities established under a memorandum of cooperation on advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies signed by the two regulators in 2019. The latest joint report provides a common understanding on the evidence fuel vendors need to demonstrate the acceptability of pebbles made from TRISO fuel. The report aims to provide the evidentiary basis to support regulatory findings for items associated with fuel qualification that are generically applicable to TRISO fuel based on currently available information.
The Nuclear Business Platform published its 2023 edition of the India Nuclear Industry Report. The report goes over India’s clean energy transition goals, the developing ecosystem to support nuclear business in India, and India’s multi-pronged approach for the advancement of nuclear deployment. Other topics covered include steps to take for India’s small modular reactor program, the adequacy and efficacy of India’s insurance regime, and the status of France’s Jaitapur nuclear power project.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Michael Sway, 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.