In this week’s issue, we recognize the bipartisan Congressional support for next-generation nuclear reactors as a means of achieving carbon-reduction, nonproliferation and geopolitical objectives. We also note the Good Energy Collection, a new women-led group of progressive experts advocating for a community-based approach to the deployment of next-generation nuclear reactors. Finally, we draw attention to the latest updates from the International Development Finance Corporation as it considers allowing international development funding to be spent towards nuclear projects. 
Politics of Next-Gen Nuclear Energy Respond to New Realities
This year has been a cold slap in the face to business-as-usual. But, apparently, it has not been enough to jolt us from our pre-COVID cocoons of complacency. That may be changing, as the responses to important, but siloed, issues begin to intersect to form an effective solution set.

Reigning in global carbon emissions remains a critical, stubborn global challenge. Because of the economic impact of the novel corona virus, emissions are projected to be 7% less in 2020 than in 2019. But that trend is already being reversed as global industry gears up and high level calls for a “green” restart go unheeded. The result, as identified in an interesting new analysis , is that over the next 50 years, the earth’s barely livable hot zone could expand from 1% to 19% of its surface. This zone would include some of the world’s most populous, poverty stricken, and precarious nations.

An excellent new article on climate strategy notes that the fixation on a transformative climate revolution is undercutting the practical but impactful actions that can be taken within the current confines of national and international politics.

One element of the strategy is the “big role” that nuclear power could play in reducing global electric power emissions. But, the article underscores that this will require new technologies that can bring down the high costs of nuclear energy. And that will require significantly more investment and sustained political support.

Interestingly, in the sad circus that now passes for American policymaking, a strong bipartisan consensus has solidified on the need for the next generation of nuclear power.

This foundation has been built on bipartisan legislation that has sought to modernize the regulatory structure of advanced reactors, spur on accelerated demonstration of the technologies, and provide funding for eventual export.

The change in export support is fairly radical, as a new agency created by the Congress, the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), has removed a legacy prohibition on financially supporting nuclear projects.

But, even the IDFC’s announcement of the potential policy change, which made specific reference to the role advanced reactors could play in emerging markets and its value for carbon reduction, nonproliferation standards, and U.S. global influence, generated a rattled response about the security dangers of changing the nuclear status quo.

The issue of maintaining strong nonproliferation standards is absolutely critical to global security and the future of nuclear power. Despite its current state of disorder, the U.S., and its allies, are better equipped to lead that fight than Russia or China, which very effectively use state financing to export their reactors and undermine U.S. nonproliferation values.

But you can’t win a fight if you are not in the ring, and this is something that both sides of the political aisle in America now grasp.

While the country is being wracked by partisanship in a presidential election year, both the Democrats-only House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the presumptive Democratic party presidential nominee have expressed support for advanced nuclear technologies. In addition, a new organization , formed by a group of politically progressive women , promises fresh approaches to working with the climate advocacy community to foster better understanding of the role of next-gen nuclear.

These progressive positions are not in conflict with the current administration which recently released a new U.S. nuclear export strategy and is aggressively pursuing next-gen reactor technologies to support evolving defense objectives and other national goals.

Beyond the U.S., the Liberal Party government of Canada continues its aggressive work on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) including developing an SMR Action Plan that follows its 2018 SMR Roadmap. Further, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister recently stated , “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no way of achieving our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear energy.” This reference encompassed all nuclear technologies including the next generation.

This cross-party political support will make it difficult to drive a political wedge that excludes next-gen nuclear from being part of the global climate and clean energy solution set. And, surprisingly, the political mainstream seems to be ahead of the majority of the non-governmental community on the nexus of these issues.

Too often the environmental and nuclear nonproliferation communities close out important global concerns that do not fit neatly into their traditional issue scope. But the intensifying intersection of new global realities is making it clear that the business-as-usual issue silos cannot thrive or ultimately survive in this new environment. Creative cross-sector thinking is beginning to seep to the surface. It’s value certainly will become contagious.  


The Nuclear Threat Initiative's 2020 Nuclear Security Index has reported that global nuclear security has slowed significantly since 2018, with nuclear materials more vulnerable to theft and sabotage than in the past. The report also notes that national regulatory structures and global nuclear security architecture has also seen a drop in activity, suggesting that attention to nuclear security has waned. 
Nuclear Collaborations
India and the European Union have strengthened an existing agreement on nuclear power cooperation following a multilateral diplomatic summit in mid-July. An announcement on the deal is expected to be made in the coming weeks, and will likely entail a five-year roadmap for more intensive industry ties, investments and cooperation.

Canadian entities Bruce Power and McMaster university will work together on the development of advanced nuclear technologies, with a focus on next-generation reactors, life extension and medical isotopes. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
A consortium of Korean energy corporations , driven by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), is making a strong push for the export of Korean nuclear technologies abroad. The ‘Team Korea’ group is aiming to win a bid for the Czech Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), while also advocating for European regulators to approve the technical safety of the APR1000 reactor. 

Chinese Premier Liu He has called for an investigation into a ‘brain drain’ from Chinese nuclear entities following the resignation of more than 90 nuclear researchers. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a state-run nuclear energy research institute, is undertaking its own investigation. 

The United Arab Emirates has reached another milestone at its Barakah NPP project, with the completed construction of its second unit . The unit will be handed over to nuclear operators before it generates any power, with licensing and regulatory approval required before fuel loading. 

The British government will invest £40 million ($51 million) into the development and deployment of small nuclear reactor projects. 75 per cent of the funding will be directed towards three separate SMR projects across the country, with the remaining money going towards research, design and manufacturing projects. 

NuScale is edging closer to the deployment of its Small Modular Reactor (SMR), having submitted its second pre-licensing Vendor Design Review to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). This will allow CNSC staff to provide feedback to NuScale early in the design process, helping to ensure that the reactor meets regulatory requirements, codes and standards. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 Presidential Election, has released a $2 trillion climate plan that aims to curb U.S. carbon emissions from power plants and boost investments in clean energy. Biden’s plan included robust support for next-generation nuclear power, calling for increased investments into research and development of Small Modular and Advanced reactors.

Congressional Democrats are split on the Trump administration’s proposal to use international development funds for the development of nuclear power projects overseas. Opponents of the idea remain skeptical of the economic feasibility and security measures of advanced nuclear technologies, while proponents argue that nuclear power is key to the economic growth and development of vulnerable countries. 

Investments in overseas nuclear power projects are expected to rise sharply if the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) agrees to lift a ban on the financing of nuclear energy projects abroad. A decision on the highly-debated issue will likely be made public on August 9th following a public notice and comment period.

G.E.-Hitachi Nuclear Energy has been assigned a patent for a simplified boiling water reactor (BWR) design for commercial electricity generation. The reactor is expected to be smaller and more flexible than conventional BWRs, with an energy output of up to 250 MWe. 

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette has issued a warning against “top down” energy strategies as economies around the world weigh up Coronavirus recovery efforts. Speaking at an International Energy Agency (IEA) summit, Brouillette argued for the use of free markets and limited government intervention as the best method of establishing a “bottom-up, competition driven” energy sector. 

The US Department of Energy is working to end its reliance on Russian nuclear fuel, aiming instead to revive a weakened domestic uranium industry. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette, speaking to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Nuclear Energy, says that the DOE plans to begin processing U.S. uranium into high-grade fuel in Portsmouth, Ohio, by 2021.

A new pro-nuclear group , led by progressive women Suzy Hobbs Baker and Jessica Lovering, is seeking to democratize the nuclear industry by amplifying progressive, minority and community voices in the development and deployment of next-generation nuclear technologies. The ‘Good Energy Collective’ will promote small modular and advanced reactors (SM&ARs) through the development of innovative policy solutions, focusing on community engagement and participation at all steps of the decision making processes. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Azerbaijan has threatened to target Armenia’s Metsamor NPP with a missile attack, following a sharp rise in diplomatic tensions between the two nations. The threat has since been played down by Azerbaijani state media. 

The U.K.’s U-Battery has received a £10 million ($13 million) grant as part of an Advanced Modular Reactor competition, which it hopes to use to make new nuclear technologies more market-friendly. The funding, granted by the U.K.’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, follows a feasibility study conducted by U-Battery that made the business, economic and technical case for advanced modular reactors. 

Argonne National Laboratory will use an $8 million grant for research and development of its digital models in the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors. Securing the funding from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Laboratory will test upcoming nuclear technologies digitally and identify methods of lowering costs and refining designs. 

President Trump has announced that his administration is working to secure ten additional icebreakers for the U.S. Coast Guard, with a strong possibility that some will be nuclear-powered. The announcement comes as geopolitical tensions rise in the Arctic Seas, where the U.S. has expressed its desire to counter Russian and Chinese influence. 
Noteworthy Research
The World Nuclear Association has released a White Paper titled, ‘Building a Stronger Tomorrow: Nuclear Power in the Post-Pandemic World’ . The paper provides a blueprint for incorporating nuclear energy in post-COVID recovery efforts, citing the importance of heavy investments and nuclear heat production. 

Advanced nuclear reactors must have a capital cost of less than $3000 per KW in order to be considered a viable market alternative, according to a recent report by LucidCatalyst. The report, entitled, ‘Cost & Performance Requirements for Flexible Advanced Nuclear Plants in Future U.S. Power Markets’ , also identifies several innovative technologies that would enable lower costs and more flexible marketing of advanced nuclear technologies.  

The seventh edition of the IAEA’s ‘Report on Safety Lessons Learned From Nuclear Power Plant Operating Experiences Worldwide (2015-2017)’ has been released, providing an overview of the safety lessons learned by nuclear power operators over that period. 

A recent report by Ceres, ‘Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States’ , highlights the environmental performance and progress of the United States’ electric power sector. The report found that in 2019, nuclear power and other zero-carbon sources generated 35.7 per cent of U.S. electricity, marking the second leading source of power generation. 
The Nuclear Conversation
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