In this week’s issue, we discuss the role of nuclear energy in supporting a clean energy system, and the political challenges the technology continues to face amid the intensifying impacts of climate change. We also spotlight Advanced Reactors: Turning the Corner, a new report that details global progress on deploying and commercializing advanced nuclear reactors. Finally, we cover the fierce debate over whether to include nuclear energy in the EU’s green finance taxonomy.
The Political Challenge of Climate Innovation and Ambition 
The American West is once again on fire or covered with heavy smoke from numerous blazes. Through mid-July of this year, there have been over 34,000 fires in the U.S. compared with about 28,000 at the same juncture last year.
The causes – multi-year drought, undersized winter snowpack, unusually high temperatures causing early runoff, and lack of rain. The contributing culprit, climate change.
In the face of this intensifying conflagration, it remains a mystery why some climate concerned analysts continue to dismiss the full suite of zero-carbon technologies that can reduce global warming and profess a lack of faith in the full-scope of innovation that is necessary to tackle the challenge.
Much of this technology discrimination is designed to sideline the role of nuclear energy. That’s surprising given its current outsized role in delivering zero-carbon energy in major industrialized nations and the potential of next-generation technologies to cleanly power developing economy nations. There also is considerable opposition to carbon capture technologies that would support the continued, but cleaner, use of fossil fuels.
Despite the negativity from some experts, it seems that the European Union and the U.S. are thinking with increasing creativity about how to manage a climate that is not evolving for the better. But that ambition is facing off against painful political realities.
Official Washington, which seems perpetually challenged in effectively addressing large, multi-dimensional crises, is discussing both greenhouse gas reductions and resiliency measures to weather the growing climate change storm.
A legislative response has been developed by Democrats as part of a $3.5 trillion budget framework. This bill is based on the Biden administration’s goals, so likely will not draw bipartisan support which is an unfortunate manifestation of the deep divisions that rend the republic. But, if passed, it could define a national clean energy standard that includes a full suite of responses including those, like nuclear energy and carbon capture, that are necessary but unpopular among inflexible non-governmental climate commissars.
The European Commission also continues to wrestle with the role of nuclear power in its proposed green finance taxonomy, even as the EU unveiled a dozen major proposals designed to deliver “the first climate neutral continent by 2050” in a new package of legislation. It must be endorsed by 27 member countries and given the ambition of the package, that could be a difficult objective because of the diverse energy profiles of EU nations. Some are highly nuclear energy dependent like France and others are deeply reliant on coal like Poland.

Based on a “polluter pays principle” the most controversial components of the proposal are to: tax foreign companies for the emissions that they produce particularly for steel, aluminum, and concrete; tax shipping and aviation fuels for their climate impacts; and require a 100% reduction in automobile emissions requiring a massive expansion of battery-powered cars on the continent.
The EU package also calls for 40% of its energy be produced by renewable sources by 2030 with the anticipation of further expansion through 2050. Germany’s environment minister summed up the objective, “There needs to be a coordinated, massive expansion of sun and wind power from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.”
But achieving that coordination in Europe or any other region is not going to be easy.
There is a multinational backlash against the massive scaling of renewable energy based on the large volume of land and water that is required for its deployment and the impacts on the farming and marine industries.
While governments and environmentalists have crowned renewable energy as the superior choice, those that have to live with the results are pushing back, causing numerous wind, solar, and geothermal projects to be stalled.
By contrast, nuclear reactors use under 1% of the space required by wind and solar power when measured by unit of energy produced. And it is unlikely that fossil fuels will be phased out by mid-century.
The response to climate change certainly will require the creative and controversial if it is going to be successful. And recent proposals in America and Europe have been both.
But it makes little sense to ramrod the technological response to excessively favor renewables. It is highly unlikely that the divisive politics of the moment will support that approach and it could damage nascent recognition of the climate crisis among skeptics.
A balanced, technology neutral response is a better path forward. That has the important benefit of diversifying the energy supply, supporting reliable clean power, and requiring a significant investment in science and technology R&D. In the end, that agenda will engender deeper political support and better serve national objectives over the long term.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

In Advanced Reactors: Turning the Corner, a coalition of nuclear energy stakeholders take a comprehensive look at global efforts to develop and deploy advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The report finds that many countries have made substantial progress towards developing, demonstrating, deploying and commercializing advanced reactors, providing recommendations for the US to become the global leader in advanced nuclear technology.
Nuclear Collaborations
PEJ (Polish Nuclear Power Plants Ltd) won grant funding from the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a front-end engineering and design study that will help develop the first two nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Poland. This grant will help facilitate Poland’s transition away from coal-fired power plants and strengthen its energy security in the long-term.

The US Department of Energy (DOE), in conjunction with Argonne National Laboratory and Ukraine’s NT-Engineering, is working to optimize the operations of Unit 2 of the Zaporozhye NPP in Ukraine to help NPP operator Energoatom enhance its approach to maintenance. By applying this approach to the 12 other VVER-1000 units across the country, Ukraine could add an additional 1000 MW of generation capacity to its reactor fleet.

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), and Global Nuclear Fuels-America (GNF-A) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore areas of cooperation to advance the commercialization and deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs).

As part of its Advanced Construction Technology Initiative, the DOE is providing $5.8 million to GEH for a project to demonstrate how three construction technologies from other industries can be applied to advanced reactors. The Initiative aims to improve the economics of bringing advanced reactors to market by reducing cost overruns and schedule slippages.

The Japanese government and the IAEA signed Terms of Reference for the IAEA to monitor and review the planned discharge of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP. The IAEA’s involvement is intended to bolster confidence in the discharge plan and ensure it complies with international safety standards for protecting people and the environment.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The International Nuclear Safety Group penned its Annual Letter of Assessment focusing on the next generation of nuclear technologies and determines that “there are many difficult challenges that must be overcome if advanced reactors are to play an important role in the response to climate change. The IAEA is doing its part. Because the designs of innovative advanced reactors are technologically diverse, the IAEA is working on the establishment of a technology-neutral framework for safety, security and safeguards to facilitate the development of harmonized safety standards. But, as indicated by this letter, there is much work to be undertaken by all those in the nuclear community and any delay in confronting the challenges will serve to limit the opportunity for nuclear technology to contribute in a timely way to the threat of climate change.

Two separate groups, tasked by the European Commission (EC), published their reports this month assessing the preliminary findings in the EC Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) technical report on the “do no significant harm” aspects of nuclear energy. The report from the Article 31 Group of Experts on radiation protection largely confirmed the findings of the JRC report and confirmed nuclear’s compliance with various regulatory frameworks established by the EU. The Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental, and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) report also broadly agrees with the JRC findings but asserts that the comparative approach undertaken by JCR was insufficient to ensure nuclear meets the “do no significant harm” standard. The EC will now take into account the reports in order to make a decision about whether to include nuclear in the taxonomy.

Nearly 100 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called on the EC to include nuclear in the EU’s green finance taxonomy. However, the environment and energy ministers from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain sent a letter to the EC urging them to exclude nuclear energy from the taxonomy, citing shortcomings in the JRC report and claiming that nuclear power is not consistent with the “do no significant harm” principle.

The EC adopted the Euratom Work Programme 2021-2022, which will implement the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2021-2025. The Work Programme outlines the objectives and specific topic areas that will receive $355 million in funding. The Research and Training Programme will bolster fusion research, foster progress on a wide range of nuclear-related issues and improve safety and security.

The UK government and EDF reached an agreement for the decommissioning of seven advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) across Britain. All seven of the reactors are due to reach the end of their operational lifespans on a rolling basis by 2030. 

British ministers are planning to unveil legislation this coming fall that would finance Sizewell C, a £20 billion NPP proposed by EDF for England’s east coast, through a regulated asset base model. This model would see energy bill payers start contributing towards the cost of the Sizewell C NPP long before it generates any electricity.

South Korean presidential hopeful Yoon Seok-youl voiced his opposition to the current administration’s nuclear phase-out policy. When he announced his bid for the presidency, Yoon said, “The nuclear phase-out policy ignored laws and killed the world’s most advanced technology.”

The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said in a statement that South Korea needs nuclear energy to achieve its decarbonization goals. FKI cited the nation’s mountainous terrain and high population density as conditions that make it impossible to rely solely on renewable energy sources to achieve these goals.  

The eight-month criminal investigation into the shutdown of South Korea’s second-oldest nuclear reactor, Wolsong-1, ended with indictments of former Energy Ministry officials. Various officials were charged with abuses of power and interference with business.

South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission gave conditional approval for the operation of the 1400 MW Shin-Hanul No. 1 reactor in the coastal county of Uljin. The reactor was completed in April of 2020, but has remained off-line amid a drawn-out safety review.

The Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA) of Egypt delivered licensing documentation for the construction of units 1 and 2 of El Dabaa NPP to the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulation Authority (ENRRA). This moves the project into the next phase, allowing preliminary construction work for the reactors to begin. 

Taipower, Taiwan’s state-run utility, shut down Unit 1 at Taiwan’s Kuosheng NPP six months before its scheduled retirement date due to spent-fuel storage capacity constraints. The decommissioning of Unit 1 is part of the Taiwanese government’s plan to phase out the use of nuclear power by 2025. 

South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) gave notice that it will convene public hearings on the Nuclear Installation Site License (NISL) application received from Eskom to install a new reactor at Thyspunt, South Africa. The public hearings are the next step in the NNR internal licensing process, and will occur in the surrounding towns.

A team of experts from the IAEA completed their International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to review the national security regime for nuclear material and associated facilities and activities in Belarus. The team found that Belarus established a nuclear security regime with essential elements from the IAEA’s guidance on the fundamentals of nuclear security and offered recommendations to further enhance and sustain nuclear security.

The Darlington NPP in Ontario, Canada will be refurbished with up to four new reactors, supplying a maximum net output of 4800 MW. The project is slated to be completed by 2026, will cost $12.8 billion, and is expected to generate $14.9 billion in economic benefits to Ontario.

China launched construction of the first commercial onshore nuclear project that uses its homegrown Linglong One SMR design. The Linglong One was the first SMR to be approved by the IAEA in 2016, with each unit possessing a power generation capacity of 125 MW.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
A broad coalition of nuclear energy stakeholders called on the Biden administration and Congress to reverse course and open up the Chinese market to US nuclear energy companies. The coalition argues that restricting US nuclear energy companies from exporting to, or developing nuclear energy technology with, China threatens nuclear safety and undermines global climate change efforts.

The NRC decided to discontinue its consideration of regulatory changes to allow reactor operators to apply for extended license renewals, from the current 20-year maximum period out to 40 years. 

Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Joe Manchin (D-WV) proposed special infrastructure spending legislation that would provide billions of dollars in funding for initiatives that promote emerging energy technologies. The bill would provide more than 3.2 billion for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) through FY2027 and establish a “civil nuclear credit program” funded at $6 billion to provide temporary financial support for NPPs that are projected to close due to economic factors.

US Senators Ben Ray Lujan and Martin Heinrich, US Representative Melanie Stansbury, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm opposing the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level waste (HLW) in New Mexico. The elected officials are worried that the lack of a permanent disposal strategy will lead to New Mexico becoming the country’s de facto nuclear waste storage facility.

In a letter to the Texas Public Utility Commission, Governor Greg Abbott directed the board to take steps to increase the amount of electricity produced in Texas, and to work to provide incentives for the construction and maintenance of natural gas, coal and nuclear power.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic provided handheld radiation detection and identification equipment to the Border Guards Service of the State Committee on National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic. The equipment will help Border Guards Service officers to more easily detect, identify, and stop the trafficking of radioactive materials across the country’s borders. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) awarded the University of Texas at San Antonio (USTA) a $450,000 grant for nuclear plant cybersecurity research. The grant will be used to establish a NPP cybersecurity research program at the university.

On two separate occasions in the past two months, Indian authorities have arrested individuals on charges of illicit trading in uranium. Authorities said the source of the uranium remains unknown, but investigations are underway to identify the source. 

The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced plans to utilize non-conventional AI into nuclear detection. The domain-aware AI technology can help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by combining modeled predictions and multiple sources of data to overcome the limitations of conventional AI models. 

US power company Talen Energy announced plans to develop a nuclear-powered crypto mining facility and data center on undeveloped land next to their nuclear-powered Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Pennsylvania. The project is due to come online in Q2 2022 and will initially have 164MW of capacity.

Energy Harbor Corp announced a partnership with bitcoin mining hosting provider Standard Power. Under the companies’ agreement, Standard Power will convert an abandoned paper mill in Coshocton, Ohio into a crypto mining facility that uses energy from Energy Harbor Corp’s NPPs.

Nuclear power startup Oklo Inc. announced plans to partner with Bitcoin mining and hosting firm Compass Mining to introduce advanced fission to the energy-intensive process of mining cryptocurrency. The two companies say the partnership will help reduce the negative environmental impacts of the mining process.
Noteworthy Research
BP released its Statistical Review of World Energy 2021, covering energy data through 2020 and providing a comprehensive picture of the supply and demand for major energy sources on a country-level basis. Nuclear power accounted for 4.3% of global energy consumption. Global nuclear consumption fell by 4.1% compared to 2019 levels. Additionally, according to data released in the Monthly Energy Review by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), US nuclear energy consumption in 2020 was at its lowest level since 2013.
A study commissioned by the Dutch Parliament identified Zeeland as the most promising location for a new NPP in the country. The study found that there was sufficient public support in Zeeland that financiers, contractors and suppliers were prepared to invest in the project. The Netherlands currently has one NPP in operation that is scheduled to be shut down in 2033.
The Nuclear Conversation
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 13

The Brookings Institution, July 13

Eurasia Review, July 12

The Irish Times, July 11

Albuquerque Journal, July 11

The Australian, July 10

The Well News, July 9

The Washington Post, July 9

Knoxville News, July 9

Space News, July 9

The Hill, July 9

The Hill, July 8

ESI Africa, July 8

Foreign Affairs, July 8

European Scientist, July 8

Dutch News, July 8

Intelligent Living, July 8

Power Technology, July 6

Hackaday, July 6

European Leadership Network, July 6

Energy Live News, July 6

The Australian, July 5

The Daily Blog, July 5

CNET, July 5

East Asia Forum, July 5

IAEA, July 5

Casper Star Tribune, July 4

Casper Star Tribune, July 4

Seeking Alpha, July 4
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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