In this week’s issue, we examine the challenges of relying on values as the primary selling point for U.S. nuclear technology and exports when compared to the reality of the world’s energy dependence on Russia and the disregard of its ruthlessness. We spotlight two reports released by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance that document the status of advanced nuclear technology in the United States and Canada. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and political developments, reports, and analyses.
Russian Energy Reality vs. America's Values Proposition
In the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, some estimate that Russia will earn one-third more in energy exports in 2022 than 2021. This is because of price increases resulting from the war but also the steady stream of global customers.
Continued global dependence on Russian energy will fuel its awful war in Ukraine despite the punishing financial and energy sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. Efforts to cap the price of Russian oil to limit windfall profits may not work or work well enough.
Russia already has earned almost $100 billion from fossil fuel exports since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, mostly from China, India, and European Union nations.
Germany is the poster child for this conundrum.
It is highly dependent on Russian energy imports and is desperately trying to wean itself off of them. The specter of gas shortages is looming over this winter as is the threat of a Russian supply cutoff.
Despite this danger, the German Bundestag voted last week to shut down its three remaining nuclear reactors by the end of this year and ramp up coal-fired power, including restarting old plants. This after it closed three other nuclear plants at the end of 2021.
For a country so deeply committed to addressing climate change this decision is painfully ironic and sad. Carbon emissions already have risen in Germany over the past two years and it is off track on its carbon reduction goals. Relying on coal will make a mockery of its climate commitment.
The German reactor shut-down decision comes just as the European Parliament voted to include nuclear energy as a green technology under the EU taxonomy that is designed to drive its nations to climate neutrality by 2050. Germany opposed that designation for nuclear energy but was outvoted.
The EU taxonomy decision is part of a trend in the rehabilitation of nuclear power as a source of both energy security in an unsettled international environment and reliable zero-carbon energy.
A resurgence of interest in nuclear energy was already underway when it received a boost from the Glasgow climate meeting in late 2021. For example, both Japan and South Korea have completely reversed negative positions on the value of nuclear energy to their nations.
The question, however, is which countries will supply the nuclear technologies that the world is considering.
While the focus has been on Russia’s fossil fuel earnings, the country could extend that income premium through continued or expanded nuclear exports.
Despite the flagrant violation of international nuclear safety and security standards by Russia at Ukrainian nuclear facilities, it has not been sanctioned for this behavior. Like Russia’s fossil energy, the world is too dependent on its nuclear fuel, and sanctions could lead to a suspension of delivery before alternative sources are secured.
The U.S. and its European and Asian allies have allowed their nuclear muscle memory to weaken while Russia has dominated the global nuclear export and fuel markets. Building strength is China, which is pledging to construct 150 additional reactors at home.
The U.S. seems to be betting that its ace-in-the-hole in this global nuclear competition is its democratically rooted values. The U.S. backs the rules-based international order. Russia and China want to replace that with autocracy and ruthlessness. The U.S. believes it should prevail.
But American confidence in the persuasiveness of its values proposition may be misplaced.
A perfect example is Saudi Arabia. A long-time ally of the U.S., it plans to build new nuclear plants. But it has excluded the U.S. from its reactor tender. There are a number of reasons for this decision, but the deepening ties between the kingdom and Russia and China, spurred by its alienation from America’s principles-based policy, is clearly of primary importance. If this leads to Russia or China partnering with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy it will be a major U.S. foreign policy failure as well as a hovering threat to global security for decades.
The Middle East along with Africa and South-East Asia are key markets for the smaller reactors the U.S. and others are racing to bring to market. Russia’s nuclear industry has been cultivating nations in these regions for years while the U.S. has concentrated more on slower, long-term capacity building to ensure safe nuclear operation. But, growing populations, energy demands, and climate impacts are driving developing economy nations to expand clean energy sources that can be employed in the near-term. And they need help to do this.
To respond to these realities, the U.S. needs a much more aggressive and balanced approach to the international nuclear market outside of the developed economy world. It should promote its values but balance them with the benefits of its technology and responding effectively to the urgent needs of purchasing nations. As Russia is proving, values can fade when faced with reality.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance released two reports on the state of advanced nuclear reactor technology. The first was an update of their September 2021 report providing basic information on advanced reactors currently under construction in the United States and Canada, examining water-cooled reactors, non-water-cooled advanced reactor technology, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, and micro-reactors. The second is a company compendium report providing a broad summary of the advanced reactor business ecosystem, providing insight into what companies are associated with the planning, design, testing, construction, and operation of advanced nuclear energy projects. The compendium is sorted by advanced reactor companies and highlights their major projects.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
U.S. electric company Westinghouse and Ukrainian nuclear company Energoatom signed a contract to provide Ukraine with AP1000 plant technology information. This information will help with the Ukrainian firms’ feasibility study for the two new reactors planned for the Khmelnytskyi Nuclear Power Plant. Last month, the two companies signed an agreement to build nine AP1000 reactors in Ukraine, as well as for Westinghouse to supply all nuclear fuel for Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
According to a report coming out of Ukraine, the Russian military is using the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to shield heavy artillery and troops from Ukrainian attacks. Russian troops are garrisoning the reactor with tanks, rocket launchers, and armored personnel carriers, while also fortifying the exterior of the facility with trenches and land mines. Subsequently, Ukrainian forces have thus far refrained from launching a direct siege for fear of damaging the nuclear power plant.
Ukraine’s nuclear power regulator, Energoatom, announced that it has re-established its connection to surveillance systems at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. This was the second time communications had been lost with the plant due to the cutting off of all Ukrainian mobile operators by Russian occupation. One of the mobile operators is Vodavone, with which the IAEA has a contract for data transmission.
According to Enerhodar’s Mayor, Dymtro Orlov, a diver of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant’s hydraulic workshop died after being tortured by Russian occupying forces. Andrii Honcharuk was asked to dive into the spray pond of the ZNPP by Russian forces and was subsequently beaten when he refused and died from his injuries. Orlov also also alleged that the Russians are throwing abducted Zaporizhzhia power plant employees into the basements of the facilities and keeping them there for weeks.
Nuclear Collaborations
South Korea’s Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang has called for deeper bilateral cooperation in the nuclear power generation field. Seoul is seeking to participate in Poland’s new reactor construction project, as South Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) submitted a proposal deal to Poland in April of this year. If South Korea wins the contract, it will be the country’s first nuclear power project since 2008 when it signed a nuclear power deal with the United Arab Emirates for the Barakah power plant. Westinghouse is also competing for Poland’s reactors.
The IAEA is working with Australia on the issue of ensuring nuclear safeguards in relation to its proposed acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines under the trilateral AUKUS partnership. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that while Australia is a non-nuclear weapons state with firm non-proliferation commitments, safeguarding nuclear material used for naval propulsion is complex because IAEA inspectors would be unable to check such material when a vessel is at sea. The AUKUS security partnership was announced last year by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under the partnership, Australia is to acquire up to eight nuclear submarines.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol warns that Russian and Chinese reactor designs are dominating the current nuclear energy market. Since 2017, 87% of new reactors that have broken ground are Russian and Chinese designs. The IEA also put together a plan for how the world can reach net zero emissions by 2050, which would require nuclear power generation to double between 2020 and 2050.
According to the IAEA, some 30 countries are considering, planning, or starting nuclear power programs, with 10 to 12 of them expected to begin development by 2035. Four of these countries, Bangladesh, Belarus, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, currently have nuclear plants under construction. It is notable that Russia is playing a key role in many nuclear newcomer countries, offering both soft financing and a build-own-operate (BOO) model.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck defended the government’s commitment to ending the use of nuclear power at the end of the year, arguing that keeping its remaining reactors open would do little to address the problems caused by a possible natural gas shortfall amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Habeck stated that natural gas is more essential to fuel industrial processes and heating rather than electricity generation, meaning that nuclear power would not be able to fill that gap.
Two Polish companies, KGHM Polska Miedz SA and Orlen Synthos Green Energy, submitted applications to Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA) for the assessment of small modular reactors (SMR). KGHM’s application is based on NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant, while Orlen Synthos’ application is based on GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 SMR. The PAA President has six months to issue a decision, after which both companies hope to deploy their first SMRs by 2029.
The IAEA completed a follow-up review to its Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) mission to Hungary in 2016. The review team met with officials from the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority, commending Hungary’s strong commitment to nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness. The IAEA team also made recommendations, including for Hungary to enhance coordination at the national level and to ensure first responders are equipped with detectors to identify radiological conditions they may face.
The United Kingdom’s government has delayed the decision to grant French nuclear utility Electricite de France (EDF) development consent to build the Sizewell nuclear plant. The primary reason for delaying the decision is to give the minister responsible more time to consider the proposal, and the deadline has now been extended to July 20. If built, the Sizewell C nuclear plant would be able to produce 3.2 GW of electricity, which is enough to power around 6 million homes.
In a lecture at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi emphasized that much of the energy technology that will get us to net-zero carbon emissions is not yet on the market. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a case in point. Around the world, from Argentina to France, some 70 designs are being developed, while only Russia and China have already deployed SMRs so far. These advanced nuclear reactors have a power capacity of about half to a third of traditional nuclear power reactors, with their smaller size making them suitable for locations where larger nuclear power plants cannot be built.

The French government will nationalize the financially struggling Electricite de France (EDF) to help the organization survive Europe’s ongoing energy crisis and invest in new atomic plants. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to nationalize part of EDF during his re-election campaign, and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne stated that the French government will raise its stake in EDF from 84% to 100%. Macron also said that EDF will need a broad reorganization that will require billions of euros in public financing.

The European Parliament has decided to include nuclear energy and gas activities as a sustainable finance taxonomy for green investment. The decision comes after an attempt to block the new taxonomy failed to secure a majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The result means that the European Commission’s proposals to include certain nuclear and gas activities within the list of investments that meet taxonomy requirements is due to come into force on January 1, 2023.
South Korea’s government has laid out a new energy policy which aims to maintain nuclear’s share of the country’s mix at a minimum of 30% by 2030, as well as resuming construction of units 3 and 4 at the Shin Hanul nuclear power plant. The new policy also sets the goal of exporting 10 nuclear power plants by 2030, as well as the development of a Korean small modular reactor design. South Korea aims to resume construction of the Shin Hanul nuclear power units by 2024.
The IAEA has launched the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) aimed at accelerating the safe and secure deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, with a focus on small modular reactors (SMR). At the NHSI’s kick-off meeting last month, participants from 33 countries discussed roadmaps for enhancing harmonization of regulatory activities and the standardization of industrial approaches. The NHSI aims to facilitate the deployment of SMRs and maximize their contribution to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
A team of IAEA experts visited the Netherlands’ High Flux Reactor (HFR) to examine the way in which the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) manages the aging of its installations. The IAEA concluded that the NRG has made great strides in establishing a comprehensive aging management program in line with IAEA standards and made recommendations on the non-physical aging of components. The 45 MW HFT started operations in 1960, and the Dutch government is planning to replace the aging reactor in 2024.
British company Rolls-Royce SMR has shortlisted six potential locations in the United Kingdom for the first of three factories that will manufacture small modular reactors and component parts. The first plant will produce the vessels for the 470 MWe pressurized water reactor, while the other two factories will manufacture civil modules and mechanical electrical and plumbing modules. A Rolls-Royce led consortium aims to build 16 SMRs in the future, completing its first unit in the early 2030s and building up to 10 by 2035.
Argentina is preparing to refurbish the Atucha 1 nuclear power plant so that it may generate power for another 20 years. In 2024, Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA will take Atucha 1 offline for a $463 million refurbishment program lasting two years, replacing pressure tubes and fuel channels. Atucha 1 first came into service in 1974, and its current operating license will expire at the emd of 2024.
Electricite de France (EDF) expects to reduce output at some of its French nuclear reactors this summer as an ongoing drought is reducing the amount of river water available for cooling. This is in addition to about half of EDF’s nuclear reactors currently halted due to repairs and planned maintenance. The power production cuts will add further strain to Europe’s energy supply, and France will likely have to import more electricity in coming months.
The United Kingdom has given the green light to the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) prototype nuclear fusion plant. The STEP prototype reactor aims to deliver 100 MW of net electricity to the national grid, with construction scheduled to be completed sometime around 2040. The winning location for the plant is set to be announced later this year, with East Yorkshire being one of the five sites shortlisted.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant announced that it plans to submit an application for funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit program, which the Biden administration created in order to keep financially strapped nuclear facilities open. With California’s electric grid under strain from prolonged heat and drought conditions, Governor Gavin Newsom has raised the prospect of extending Diablo Canyon’s lifespan, as the reactor is currently scheduled to go offline in 2025.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced awards for 18 Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) projects. The 18 selected projects include representation from 10 private companies and 8 universities that will work with 3 national laboratories. The INFUSE program was established in 2019 and links fusion energy developers with DoE national laboratories and universities to overcome scientific and technology challenges in fusion energy development.
The U.S. Department of Energy granted $12.3 billion in federal funds for state oversight activities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The money was granted to two state agencies in order to assist with the transportation of waste to the WIPP facility and monitor the environmental impacts and other operations. The grants hope to ensure the continued safe operations at the WIPP facility, where transuranic waste is permanently disposed of via burial in a salt deposit 2,000 feet underground.
The California House Appropriations Committee has developed the Energy and Water Development Bill for the fiscal year 2023. The bill includes language directing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide the committee with a plan for the continued operation of Diablo Canyon no later than 180 days after the legislation’s passage into law. The amended text recognizes the importance of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to the success of advanced reactors, providing $100 million to the state’s HALEU program.
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began the process to initiate the United States’ strategic uranium reserves, issuing a solicitation to purchase up to one million pounds of domestically produced U3O8. A solicitation is for the purchase of uranium provided by any vendor that has produced uranium at a domestic uranium recovery facility since 2009. The government anticipates making up to four individual awards of 100,000 to 500,000 pounds of U3O8.
U.S. nuclear company Curio Solutions announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Energy Northwest as an industry partner and off-taker of products from Curio’s ongoing NuCycle nuclear fuel recycling facility. The MoU is part of Curio’s plans to deploy the United States’ first nuclear fuel recycling plant that will provide a variety of commodities such as low enriched uranium, high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU), and transuranic-based TRUfuel. Once complete, the plant will also develop off-take isotopes to create advanced nuclear batteries and nuclear medicine.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The Atlantic Council released a report documenting the status of the U.S. energy sector’s digital security. The report argues that the United States is currently unprepared to secure its current transition to renewable and advanced energy, as changes in technology, energy sources, and geopolitical considerations have outpaced public policy. Specifically, the public and private sectors lack a unified strategic framework to secure energy infrastructure against cyber threats. The report gives several recommendations for the U.S government to improve cybersecurity in the energy sector, including providing penetration testing assistance, streamlining information sharing processes, and coordinating mandatory and voluntary standards to create a roadmap for future requirements and private sector risk management.
Noteworthy Research
The Breakthrough Institute released a new study on how the successful commercialization of advanced nuclear reactors could lower the total cost of energy in the United States. The study examines three technology categories of advanced nuclear reactors: light-water small modular reactors (SMR), high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HGTR), and advanced reactors with thermal energy storage. The model sees the commercial deployment of advanced reactors beginning in the early-2030s and then rapidly accelerating as the sector grows. According to the study, advanced nuclear reactors could potentially supply up to 48% of domestic clean electricity generation by 2050.
A study published in The Journal of Cleaner Production examined nuclear power’s environmental impact in relation to other sources of energy. The study calculated the Total Material Requirement (TMR) coefficient, a measure of the mining intensity of a process, in addition to the entire life cycle of nuclear power. The researchers found that nuclear power’s impact on the environment is 20% the TMR amount of coal, 23% that of oil, and 35% that of liquefied natural gas power. The study concluded that nuclear power’s TMR coefficient value is comparable to other renewables, highlighting that the low environmental impact of nuclear power doesn’t merely boil down to greenhouse gas emissions.
The Nuclear Conversation
New items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Yeseul Woo, 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.