In this week’s issue, we discuss two key national security challenges—climate change and China—for the U.S. Congress, as the battle over several important pieces of legislation is reaching a critical point. We also spotlight a new report, Nuclear Security in Times of Crisis, which explores the impact a variety of crises can have on nuclear security and the steps that can be taken to mitigate the negative impacts of such crises. Finally, we cover the Twenty First Century Nuclear Security Act, a newly introduced bill with bipartisan support that seeks to identify opportunities for the U.S. to regain leadership in the nuclear technology market.
China and Climate Require a Resolute Political Response
The dysfunction that defines Washington, D.C. is facing a pressing test. Political leaders must get serious and get it right on two critical fronts – managing the competition from China and the threat from climate change.
The choices made this year on both of these issues will have repercussions for coming decades.
The Senate and House are increasingly at loggerheads on legislation over how to deal with both challenges despite the fact that these should be a no-brainer bipartisan slam dunks for the Congress. But they have run into yet another ideological buzzsaw.
A Senate bill, the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, is explicitly focused on strengthening America’s technological competitiveness with China. It passed with bipartisan support and eight votes more than the filibuster threshold – a virtual miracle in the modern Senate. It was a testament to the importance of ensuring that China does not dominate next-generation technologies.
It has the support of the President, who noted that the $250 billion bill will allow for “generational investments in research and development…[and] empower[s] us to discover, build, and enhance tomorrow’s most vital technologies.”
It spreads the wealth around the country including building research capabilities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, expanding the definition of STEM to include energy and the environment analysis, and creating regional technology hubs.
Biden’s message was crystal clear, “We are in a competition to win the 21st Century, and the starting gun has gone off.”
Unfortunately, the Congress is stumbling out of the starting blocks.
The House complement to the Senate bill, the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act (EAGLE Act), is set for a committee vote that bleakly is expected to break along partisan lines. It has drawn fire because it provides billions to fight climate change, which the Senate bill excludes and is softer on China competition.
Other House legislation that supports greater federal investment in cutting edge science and technology programs and parallels research and development objectives raised in the Senate Innovation Act, also has drawn criticism because it lacks a pointed focus on competition with China.
Both China and climate change also underlie the brewing battle over two important infrastructure bills that are coming this year.
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure agreement struck last week between Biden and the Congress is coupled with a “human infrastructure” bill that includes, among other things, increased funding to fight climate change.
This linkage imperils both bills because of the intense ideological differences on Capitol Hill. Conservatives are skeptical of massive spending on climate change and liberals wary of creating a new Cold War with China.
The reality is that both issues are not going away in this century, and it is necessary for the nation to address them in a sober and serious manner.
It makes little sense to ignore the ravages of climate change on the nation and the world. The unprecedented and oppressive heat in the Northwest is at least partly climate change influenced. And the persistent drought throughout the West has residents and officials bracing for yet another intense wildfire season.
Similarly, it imprudent to ignore the reality that China is intent on dominating 21st Century technology and challenging the international influence of the U.S.
No one wants another Cold War with its attendant nuclear weapons dangers, but the building blocks are being assembled. China is constructing over 100 new ICBM silos and rejecting efforts to engage it in nuclear arms limitation discussion. The U.S. is planning to spend close to $700 billion over 10 years to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. New weapon delivery technologies are being developed on both sides.
The fight against climate change and China’s influence is already a reality that requires more aggressive legislative responses. In this environment ideological rigidity is a national security liability.
The U.S. needs to win both of these competitions and that can only be done if its political players are willing to see the future clearly and act in concert and with compromise. Continued ideological dysfunction is a clear and present danger to the nation’s future. 

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The Center for Science & Security Studies at King’s College in London and the Nuclear Security Program at the Stimson Center published Nuclear Security in Times of Crisis, a handbook that explores the impact of a broad range of potential crises on nuclear security via a variety of case studies, illuminating the different measures that can be taken to stabilize the situation and ensure nuclear security.
Nuclear Collaborations
The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve their collaboration in advancing nuclear energy’s development, application and deployment in order to meet climate change goals. As a result of the MoU, the two organizations will share information about the restart of Japan’s reactor fleet and the Canadian refurbishment programs.

The Romanian Senate ratified an intergovernmental agreement signed last year with the U.S. The $8 billion deal is intended to expand and modernize Romania’s nuclear power industry, and may lead to the completion of two reactors at Cernavoda, Romania’s only nuclear power plant (NPP), as well as the refurbishment of two existing reactors.

Polish oil company PKN Orlen signed a cooperation agreement on small nuclear projects with chemicals company Synthos. The two companies will work together to bring zero-emissions technology, specifically small and micronuclear reactors, to market in Poland.

Legal advisors, officials, and experts from 39 IAEA Member States in the African region participated in a virtual regional workshop on nuclear law to exchange views and share experiences and lessons learned related to international and national legal frameworks for the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear technology. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Iran’s Bushehr NPP, its sole NPP, underwent an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown. The plant shutdown began on Saturday, June 19, and authorities said repair work is expected to continue through Friday, July 2. The shutdown came amid ongoing negotiations between Iran and global powers to restore the JCPOA.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran will pay Russia 500 million euros it owes for fuel for the Bushehr NPP and for two other plants under construction in the country. 

Canadian firm General Fusion will build a large-scale nuclear fusion demonstration plant at Culham in Oxfordshire, home to the UK’s national fusion research program. General Fusion is aiming for the plant to be operational by 2025, and will enter into a long-term commercial lease with the UK Atomic Energy Authority once the facility is constructed.

The Ghanaian government is advancing its efforts to generate power from nuclear technology, engaging vendor countries through their respective embassies in the country. The search for a vendor is being led by the Ministry of Energy and is one of the critical milestones in phase two of Ghana’s Nuclear Power Project. 

The Dukovany II Power Plant, part of CEZ Group, informed three potential suppliers for the construction of a new unit at the Dukovany NPP that by the end of November it will submit “all relevant information on security issues” for the project to the Czech government. This initiated the start of a safety assessment of the three suppliers, EDF, Westinghouse, and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. Once the government receives the information, it will then decide which candidates will be invited to the tender itself. 

Moon Sung-wook, South Korea’s industry minister, said the nation will “spare no efforts” to win the contract to build a new reactor at the Czech Republic’s Dukovany NPP. The Czech government wants the new unit to enter service in the mid-2030s.

The China Atomic Energy Agency (CAEA) announced the start of construction of the Beishan Underground Research Laboratory near Jiuquan City in China’s Gansu province. The laboratory will be used to test the suitability of the area for the long-term storage of radioactive waste, and it will be situated roughly 560 meters below ground level in the Gobi desert.

France’s EDF called on the British government to pass legislation that would “underpin the financing of a NPP, Sizewell C.” EDF’s UK head, Simone Rossi, said that the legislation is essential to the success and timely delivery of the project.

In an agreement with the British government, EDF committed to putting all seven of its advanced gas-cooled reactor nuclear power stations in the UK into the defueling and decommissioning stages by 2030. Once the stations are decommissioned, EDF’s generating capacity in the UK will consist of Sizewell B, HPC, potentially Sizewell C which is currently under construction, and renewables including solar as well as onshore and offshore wind.

Workers in France went on strike to protest a nuclear reform plan on June 22, causing an approximate 2.5 GW reduction in nuclear power generation. EDF reported that roughly 10.5% of its employees participated in the strike.

The Dunkirk Criminal Court sentenced EDF to fines of several thousand euros for failing to comply with the water evacuation requirements of the Nuclear Safety Authority in its operations of the Gravelin NPP.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved a draft report finding the No. 2 reactor at the Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane NPP in Matsue meets the country’s new regulatory standards for nuclear energy. It is the fifth boiling water reactor (BWR) in the country to clear regulatory screenings for restarting idled reactors.

The Mihama No. 3 reactor in central Japan went back online on June 23, becoming the first of three reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. to resume operations after being granted extensions to operate beyond their initial 40-year lifespan. A former senior Cabinet advisor in Japan sounded the alarm over how approval for the reactor restart was obtained, expressing concern about a lack of transparency and the use of subsidies to cultivate the local opinions necessary to garner approval.

Taiwan plans to phase out nuclear power generation completely by 2025. Taiwan has severely curtailed its nuclear power production since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, postponing construction and placing NPPs on standby. The government intends to fill the gap created by the retirement of its NPPs with renewable energy.

The Philippines’ Department of Energy identified 15 sites as possible locations for future NPPs. The sites will be subject to further evaluations and international consultations to ensure they meet international norms and standards before any development of nuclear power facilities begins.

On June 29, Rosatom began construction of the fifth reactor at Kudankulam NPP in Tamil Nadu, India. Russia and India have previously signed General Framework Agreements for the construction of units 3, 4, 5 and 6 at the Kudankulam NPP. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The DOE announced more than $61 million in funding awards for 99 advanced nuclear energy technology projects. The projects funded will focus on nuclear energy research, cross-discipline technology development, and nuclear reactor infrastructure “to bolster the resiliency and use of America’s largest domestic source of carbon-free energy.”

U.S. Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced the Twenty First Century Nuclear Security Act, a bipartisan bill that would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to submit a report to Congress on the global nuclear leadership of the U.S. The bill would assess the risk posed by Russian and Chinese supremacy in the global nuclear energy market as well as identify opportunities for the U.S. to regain its dominance in the market.

Members of the U.S. Congress introduced the Zero-Emission Nuclear Power Production Credit Act of 2021 that would allow some existing NPPs to receive a tax credit equal to the incentives already given to operators of wind power turbines. In states with deregulated power markets, the bill would provide a production tax credit of $15 per megawatt-hour for existing plant owners and operators. 

Oklo, a California-based company developing clean energy plants that utilize advanced fission, won a $2 million cost-share award from the DOE. The award, supported by the Technology Commercialization Fund, will be matched by $1 million from Oklo, enabling the commercialization of advanced fuel recycling capabilities that utilize electrorefining technology.

The NRC approved Centrus Energy’s request to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel (HALEU) at its enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio, making it the only licensed HALEU production facility in the U.S. The fuel will be used to support the testing and demonstration of advanced reactors. Centrus expects to begin HALEU production by early 2022.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) member Annie Caputo will leave the Commission when her term expires on June 30. The White House is yet to say when they will nominate Caputo’s replacement to the five-member NRC, which must be approved by the U.S. Senate. 
The NRC launched a special inspection of the third unit at Southern Co.’s Vogtle NPP in Southern Georgia. The NRC’s inspection will focus on the company’s construction remediation work related to electrical commodity installations. Unit 3, which is currently under construction, is due to enter service in the first quarter of 2022.

Duke Energy Corp., which has 11 reactors at six sites in North and South Carolina, filed an application with the NRC to renew the license for its Oconee NPP in South Carolina for 20 years. If approved, the extension would keep the three reactors at the site in operation until 2053 and 2054. 

After nearly two weeks offline due to a fire in the main transformer, the Comanche Peak NPP’s second unit is back online as of 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 18. Unit 1 continued to operate at full capacity during the incident and subsequent shutdown. The fire was caused by a surge in electricity demand, leading the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to call on residents to conserve energy in order to decrease pressure on the state’s electric grid.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin argued that the Two Rivers NPP, the state’s last operational NPP, should not have its license extended due to environmental impact and safety concerns that stem from the plant’s aging infrastructure.

The Illinois legislature’s session that ended June 1 failed to produce legislation that would overhaul the state’s energy policy and provide bailouts to Exelon, which owns and operates the state’s two NPPs. Because the legislature failed to pass the necessary legislation by Exelon’s May 31 deadline, the company announced its plans to deactivate its NPPs in the state. 

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), New Jersey’s largest energy company, moved up its ambitious net-zero climate emissions target by 20 years to 2030. It is one of the most aggressive pledges set in the U.S. by a large utility and power generation company. PSEG projects that the bulk of its carbon-free electricity will come from its fleet of NPPs.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The DOE will be updating its cybersecurity and information technology requirements for contractors who work on the security of the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Contractors have said that the current requirements are too onerous to comply with. These changes are coming despite the fact that the NNSA was one of several government agencies targeted in recent SolarWinds hacking campaigns.

Iranian authorities said they thwarted a so-called “sabotage attack” that targeted a civilian nuclear facility near the country’s capital. The attack supposedly targeted a building belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, and it did not disrupt the nation’s nuclear program. It is unclear exactly which facility was targeted. 

The DOE selected power equipment firm Curtiss-Write Corp. to be part of Project SAFARI. The project, which aims to develop digital twin technology for advanced nuclear reactors, is part of an effort to transform operations and maintenance systems for the next generation of nuclear plants. 

South Korea’s Ministry of Science is investigating a potential hack into the state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute by a group of hackers believed to be associated with a North Korean intelligence agency. The institute has since taken security measures, including blocking the hacker’s IP address and stopping the institute’s VPN.
Noteworthy Research
A new modelling report released by the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) identifies four nuclear deployment scenarios for a 2050 Net Zero energy mix for the nation, utilizing a novel whole energy system model. . The report reveals potential routes to de-risk and lower the cost of achieving net zero emissions.

As part of a series of reports on the contemporary militarization of the Arctic and subarctic regions, the Arctic Institute assesses the role of the region in past, present and future arms control agreements between great powers.

In the newly released Fuelling Net Zero: Advanced Nuclear Fuel Cycle Roadmaps for a Clean Energy Future, the Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme of the NNL details the need for the UK to develop advanced nuclear fuels and fuel cycle technologies to meet its clean energy ambitions. The report includes a series of roadmaps that will enable UK policymakers and industry to plan for the future of nuclear energy and realize its clean energy targets. 

In its annual nuclear power status data for 2020, the IAEA finds that nuclear power operators around the world sustained reliable NPP operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear power provided reliable and adaptable low-emissions energy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, affirming its central role in the transition to clean energy. 

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency released a new study, Ensuring the Adequacy of Funding Arrangements for Decommissioning and Radioactive Waste Management, which comprises a conceptual framework, 12 detailed country case studies, and policy guidelines geared towards formalizing a new approach to ensuring adequate funding that is both robust and flexible.
The Nuclear Conversation
Financial Times, June 29

East Asia Forum, June 29

The Regulatory Review, June 29

The Conversation, June 28

Eurasia Review, June 28

Atlantic Council, June 28

Defense One, June 28

National Defense Magazine, June 28

The Hill, June 25

Wisconsin State Journal, June 25

Sci Tech Daily, June 25

World Nuclear News, June 25

Office of U.S. Senator Ed Markey, June 25

Epoch Times, June 24

Casper Star Tribune, June 24

Creamer Media’s Engineering News, June 24

Construction News, June 24

U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, June 24

The Australian, June 24

CNBC Africa, June 23

InDepthNews, June 23

Real Clear Energy, June 23

Nuclear Engineering International, June 23

Power Mag, June 23

U.S. Department of Energy, June 23

IAEA, June 23

The News International, June 22

Boston Herald, June 22

Forbes, June 22

The Heritage Foundation, June 22

The Guardian, June 21

E&E News, June 21

IAEA, June 21

The National Interest, June 20
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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