In this week’s newsletter, we look at reframing the dominant narrative of nuclear danger in an evolving global environment that increasingly values nuclear energy’s attributes. We spotlight a Columbia University article that calls for nuclear energy to be included in global climate taxonomies as a means of meeting net zero emissions targets by the mid-century. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Reframing the Nuclear Danger
The advent of nuclear weapons in 1945, documented in the new movie Oppenheimer, launched a bonanza of radioactivity-driven fear movies and monsters, featuring Godzilla, tarantulas, ants, and assorted zombies.
These cultural contributions, along with the demonstrated dreadful results of atomic weapons use and above-ground testing, developed into a dominant framework for assessing nuclear technology – that it was a reckless danger that needed to be controlled.
But that framing requires rethinking as global challenges and needs have evolved.
In the seven-plus decades since the Trinity test, new and acute concerns have arisen for which peaceful nuclear technology may offer an answer rather than a risk. There clearly is an important role for nuclear energy in addressing the extremely difficult challenge of global decarbonization.
Reframing the nuclear issue in response to modern challenges would move it closer to the original mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is, to support the value of nuclear technology in addressing global problems while ensuring robust barriers to its use in weapons and high levels of nuclear security.
This rethinking would elevate the nuclear opportunity that has been obscured under the mushroom cloud of the bomb while maintaining the commitment to the global guardrails required to prevent nuclear proliferation and arms races.
The balancing of good and bad nuclear attributes largely has been lost within the nuclear security policy community in developed countries. Instead, the focus has primarily been on the nuclear danger and how nuclear power may abet that.
The agenda of limiting nuclear weapons and materials, preventing proliferation, and eliminating the opportunities for nuclear terrorism is vitally important and needs to continue and be strengthened.
But it is now abundantly clear that the fundamental foundations of this regime are being deteriorated at a rapid pace by changes in geopolitics, weapons technologies, and competing existential threats.
There is a desperate need to reboot this system to make it work in modern circumstances. The need for novel approaches and creative solutions is clear. But the intense focus on nuclear dangers without balancing the value of energy in the nuclear security policy community is one reason why the recruitment of new experts is failing and the field is in decline.
One of the key issues to evaluate is how to disentangle the opportunity offered by nuclear energy from its potential contribution to weapons.
Surprisingly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has in a way begun to separate and clarify the nuclear opportunity and nuclear danger issues.
The war has heightened fears about Russia’s nuclear weapons saber rattling, the potential use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield, and the overall diminishment of the global nuclear security environment.
The most recent Nuclear Security Index from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, states that the level of global nuclear security is “regressing” in part because major nuclear nations like Russia have flouted global nuclear norms.
But Russia’s actions, including violating international guidelines at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, also have exposed the importance of nuclear power for Ukraine’s security and economy.

This is a message being absorbed by other countries including in the developing economy world. They are struggling with economic and population growth, energy shortages, and the need to cleanly power their progress.

Last year, at an IAEA event on the role in nuclear power in Africa, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, stated, “Ghana is looking to introduce nuclear power to provide the necessary diversity of baseload to ensure energy security for our future demands.”
This statement was made while noting that Ghana’s, “hydropower potential is almost exhausted.” Hydropower accounts for 40% of Ghana’s power and in several other African nations hydropower exceeds 80% of generation. Climate change is negatively impacting the water supply for this carbon free energy.
Russia and China very clearly see the opportunity in Africa.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is active in virtually every African country and has invested $155 billion in projects in Sub-Saharan nations.
Russia is hosting its second Russia-Africa Summit this week. In his statement to the attendees, Vladimir Putin noted that Russian trade with Africa increased in 2022 to almost $18 billion. And that, “Russian companies are interested in working more actively on the continent in the sphere of high technologies…including nuclear power.”
It also is important to note that BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have already reached equal GDP purchasing power with the G-7 countries and are projected to exceed those developed nations this decade. Further, BRICS countries represent 43% of the global population, while the G-7 is about 10%. These, and other developing economy countries, also are increasingly resisting the western dominated international system.
These trends could spell trouble for international security and stability if the continued dominance of the current nuclear danger mantra makes it harder for developing nations to gain access to the secure, clean energy they need for their growing populations and economies.
These circumstances argue for serious thinking about a fresh framework for nuclear technology that would support both energy and global security objectives. A reframing of the current nuclear danger narrative could support the modern challenges of global economic growth, zero-carbon energy and security, and result in more effective designs for managing nuclear downsides.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy published a commentary on the disconnect between global decarbonization models and the exclusion of nuclear energy from climate finance taxonomies. Outside of the European Union, 57% of taxonomies have explicitly excluded nuclear energy from their respective green or sustainable financing frameworks’ taxonomies, with another 40% silent on nuclear’s inclusion or exclusion. The article argues that taxonomy matters because sustainable investing assets under management are expected to grow to $50 trillion by 2025. The Center on Global Energy Policy suggests that including nuclear power in climate taxonomies would increase the world’s large pool of sustainable investment to help meet net zero emissions targets by mid-century.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Unit 4 at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been switched to hot shutdown, with unit 5 switched from hot to cold shutdown to allow maintenance work to be carried out. The decision to switch unit 4 to hot shutdown was taken by the operators of the nuclear power plant, providing the steam necessary for various nuclear safety purposes. The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine issued regulatory orders last month for all six units to be placed in cold shutdown given its situation on the frontline of the war and the breaching of the dam that helped ensure cooling water supplies.

IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant continue to carry out inspections after warnings from the Ukrainian government about Russian sabotage. Following visits to units 1 & 3 earlier this month, the team visited units 2 & 4 earlier this week where they checked the main control room, reactor hall, spent fuel pool, emergency control room, rooms where electrical cabinets of the safety systems are located, and the turbine hall. On July 24, the IAEA reported that it had discovered anti-personnel mines in a buffer zone of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
Nuclear Collaborations
Burundi and Russia signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on peaceful uses of nuclear technology at the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum. Rosatom said the agreement allows projects including assisting in the establishment and improvement of Burundi’s nuclear infrastructure, legal regulation in nuclear and radiation safety, and conducting fundamental and applied research in the area of peaceful atomic energy. There are other African countries discussing nuclear energy with Russia at the forum.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Ghana’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) have reaffirmed their cooperation on nuclear safety and regulation. NRC chairman Christopher Hansen and NRA director general Nii Kwashie Allotey discussed their collaboration since the signing of the 2017 bilateral agreement for cooperation and the exchange of technical information. Ghana is currently following a three-phase policy in pursuit of building the country’s first nuclear power plant.

The African Energy Chamber (AEC) and World Nuclear Association (WNA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further nuclear energy adoption in Africa. The MoU includes collaboration in African Energy Week, which will take place October 16th-20th. The partnership between the AEC and WNA will bring African leaders and nuclear stakeholders together during African Energy Week to advance nuclear energy development.

Pakistan held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its Chashma-5 Nuclear Powerplant (C-5), which will house a 1200 MWe Chinese-designed and constructed Hualong One (HPR1000) reactor. This reactor will be the 5th unit constructed at Chashma by China and will effectively double the region’s nuclear power generation capacity. This construction project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

France and India are launching a cooperation program on small modular reactors (SMR) and advanced modular reactors (AMR). The plan was announced after a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 25th anniversary of the India-France Strategic Partnership. The two countries had agreed to cooperate not only on the deployment of SMRs and AMRs, but also continue cooperation on the Jules Horowitz Research Reactor, which is under construction at Cadarache in southern France.

Westinghouse and Slovakia’s JAVYS signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the deployment of AP1000 reactors and AP300 small modular reactors (SMR). The MoU will provide a framework for both parties to collaborate on detailed technical and developmental plans and collaborate on the implementation of future projects. The AP1000 is a generation III+ pressurized water reactor (PWR) with fully passive safety systems. The AP300 SMR, launched in May 2023, is a single-loop PWR based on the technology of the AP1000 that Westinghouse hopes to have certified by 2027.

UK-based nuclear fusion company Tokamak Energy and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation agreed to collaborate on the development, implementation, and scaling-up of commercial fusion energy in Japan and worldwide. The partnership will see Sumitomo contribute expertise and investment to a series of joint projects with Tokamak focused on the scaling-up and industrialization of the global fusion supply chain. The partners will also work together on the development of a supply chain for other emerging applications for fusion technologies.

Norsk Kjernekraft and Denmark’s Seaborg signed a letter of intent to investigate the deployment of Seaborg’s compact molten salt reactor (CMSR) in Norway. Norsk Kjernekraft will prepare license applications in accordance with national regulations and international standards. Seaborg’s design is for modular CMSR power barges equipped with two to eight 100 MWe SMRs, with an operational life of 24 years.

Poland’s KGHM Polska Miedź SA and South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the implementation of net-zero and low emissions technology, including small modular reactors (SMR). The companies envisage the creation of a dedicated working group consisting of representatives of both companies to exchange information and conduct analytical work under the MoU. Additionally, Korean Company Daewoo E&C signed an MoU with the Polish Construction Association and the third-largest construction firm, ERBUD. The companies signed the MoU to establish a cooperative relationship for new projects including new nuclear construction projects.

Rosatom will be installing a core catcher for unit 1 of Egypt’s El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant, a vital part of the passive safety systems for VVER-1200 series reactors. This is a key step forward in fulfilling contracts signed in December of 2017 to build 4 VVER-1200 units for the El Dabaa nuclear power plant project. The agreement also stipulates that Russia will supply fuel, train personnel, and conduct plant maintenance for the first 10 years of plant operation. Additionally, Rosatom has been contracted to build a storage facility and supply containers for storing spent fuel.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
UK's Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps officially launched Great Britain Nuclear (GBN), kicking off a competition to select small modular reactor (SMR) technology to construct new nuclear plants. Companies selected in the competition would secure funding support from the British government, which the contract suggests the total could reach $26 billion. The GBN is part of the government’s plan to have SMRs operational by the early 2030s, which is part of the UK’s plan to achieve the government’s goal of providing 25% of the UK’s electricity by 2050.

India is making a major push to ensure its energy security while meeting energy transition goals. To that end, India has begun seeking partnerships with both Russia, a long-time energy partner, and the United States for construction of small modular reactors (SMR). These discussions are coming as India begins construction of its first research reactor using a public-private partnership (PPP) model, which may provide a model for future SMR construction projects.

French officials announced the existing Bugey nuclear power station will be the site of two new EPR reactors. The EPR2 being developed by Électricité de France (EDF) and Framatome is considered a simplified design of the EPR reactor. The French government seeks to add more than a dozen new reactors over the next several years as part of the country’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

United Kingdom government ministers announced the release of £170 million ($218 million) funding to take forward development work to prepare the Sizewell C site for future construction, procure key components from the project’s supply chain, and expand its workforce. The money is part of the £700 million investment scheme to fund Sizewell C’s continuing development so it can get to the point of a final investment decision. The plan is for Sizewell C to feature two EPRs producing 3.2 GW of electricity.

Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to lead the development of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) program. MHI will coordinate research and development, design, and construction of the HTGR demonstration reactor that ANRE plans to put into operation in the 2030s. Japan’s Basic Energy Plan from 2021 states that HTGRs will be used in the production of hydrogen.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) reconnected the Darlington 3 nuclear reactor to the electricity grid 169 days ahead of schedule. This update marks a major milestone for OPG’s massive Darlington nuclear plant refurbishment project, which commenced in 2016 and will cost about $9.7 billion. The revamp of Unit 1 is slated to be complete by the second quarter of 2025, with the refurbishment of Unit 4 set for completion by 2026.

Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant submitted an application to the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency for a permit to use Westinghouse-manufactured VVER-1000 fuel for unit 5. Last year, Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted for an acceleration of the process of securing an alternative to Russia as a supplier of nuclear fuel. The Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant features two Russian-designed VVER-1000 units currently in operation.

Électricité de France (EDF) submitted the safety options for the Nuward small modular reactor (SMR) to the country’s regulator, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN). The safety options file is a document that presents the safety objectives, the global design features, and the main principles for operation and risk management for the Nuward reactor. The detailed design and formal application for a new nuclear facility is scheduled to begin 2026, followed by the first concrete poured in 2030.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) announced it has developed the world’s first web-based automatic monitoring system to prevent accidents in nuclear reactors and related systems. The Technical Specifications Operator Support System (TOSS) monitors the operational status of nuclear power plants in real time, detecting unsatisfactory operating conditions and notifying the operator, checking and providing guidance on how to take action. KHNP said TOSS has been in pilot use at units 1 and 2 of the Shin Wolsong plant for the past three months.

The Russian Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau is developing a project for a submersible underwater power module, featuring two nuclear power units with a total capacity of 20 MWe. The submersible can dive to a depth of 400 meters and provide energy to Russian deposits in the Arctic shelf zones. Russia already has a program producing floating nuclear power plants.

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) selected Jacobs to support the design and development of a new micro modular power reactor (MMR). Jacobs will support the front-end engineering design program as a leading subcontractor to the USNC. The UK Department of Energy Security and Net Zero previously awarded USNC a grant of up to $29 million toward the development costs of the MMR system, which USNC plans to deploy in North America and Europe.

Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant cut output of three of its four reactors by a combined total of 240 MW due to rising water temperatures in the Danube River, which is the source of the water used to cool the plant. The plant operators did not specify when the three units could be brought back to full output. This comes on the heels of construction beginning for additional units at the Paks II site earlier this month.

Romanian Energy Minister Sebastian Burduja announced that Nuclearelectrica’s two new planned reactors at the Cernavoda site are expected to cost at least $7.29 billion. U.S. Ex-Im Bank will provide a $3 billion loan for the units, with additional funding from Canada and South Korea. Nuclearelectrica plans to build the two new reactors using SNC-Lavalin’s CANDU technology, with a view to signing a deal later this year.

Spanish decommissioning and waste management firm Enresa assumed ownership of the Santa María de Garoña Nuclear Power Plant to undertake the first phase of its dismantling. It is estimated that the dismantling of Garoña will take about 10 years, with the decommissioning strategy taking place over two phases. The Garoña power plant began operations in 1971 and shut down in 2012.

The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority issued the nuclear fuel licenses for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. The licenses authorize the purchase, ownership, and storage of nuclear materials, as well as allowing the transport and import of nuclear material. The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is being constructed under a bilateral contract between the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and Russia’s Rosatom agency.

The core module for China’s ACP100 has passed final acceptance and will be shipped to the construction site at the Changjiang nuclear power plant in the province of Hainan. Under development since 2010, the acceptance of the core module marked a “historic step in manufacturing of small modular pressurized water reactor units” according to China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The ACP100, also known as the Linglong One, is designed for electricity production, heating, steam production, or saltwater desalination.

Slovakia’s Slovenské elektrárne says that the start-up stage of Mochovce 3 unit has reached 75% with the final 100% trial run expected to take place between September and October. Construction of the 4-unit Mochovce plant began in 1982 with the first 2 units coming into operation in 1998 and 1999 respectively; however, units 3 and 4 stalled in 1992. Upon completion, each of the plant’s units will be able to provide 13% of Slovakia’s electricity needs when operating at full capacity. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Tom Carper and House representatives Cathy McMorris Rogers and Frank Pallone Jr. led 20 senators and 44 House members in sending a letter to each member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The letter urges the commissioners to carefully review and modify the draft licensing framework for advanced nuclear reactor technologies to establish the regulations to enable the deployment of U.S. advanced reactors.

The USA’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) finalized an agreement with Lockheed Martin to begin work on the fabrication and design of an experimental nuclear thermal rocket and its engine. BWX Technologies will develop the nuclear reactor and fabricate the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel. The project will be conducted under NASA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program.

Kairos Power submitted an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for permission to build the Hermes 2 plant next to the Hermes molten salt test reactor it plans to build at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. According to the application, the earliest start date for the construction of Hermes 2 is expected to be July 2025 with the first unit projected to be completed by 2027.

The Idaho National Laboratory showcased the Relocatable Resilience Alternative Power Improvement Distribution Microgrid in a Box (RAPID MIB), which would enable multiple energy sources to be integrated and optimized to ensure a resilient power supply in remote locations or during power outages. The microgrid system has the flexibility to manage and coordinate electricity generation from a number of sources including small modular reactors (SMR).

Georgia Power stated that all 364 inspections, tests, and analyses have been performed and all acceptance criteria have been met on Vogtle Unit 4. The next stage is for the receipt of the 103(g) finding from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and then no further NRC findings are necessary in order for Southern Nuclear to load fuel and begin the start-up sequence. Fuel loading is expected to take place later this year, with Vogtle 4 scheduled to enter service either later this year or early in 2024.

U.S. utility Energy Northwest and X-Energy Reactor Company signed a joint development agreement (JDA) for the deployment of up to 12 Xe-100 small modular reactors (SMR) in Washington state. The agreement defines and details the scope, location, and schedule under which the commercial development of the project will move forward. Energy Northwest expects to bring the first Xe-100 module online by 2030.

TerraPower and Centrus Energy signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to expand their cooperation aimed at establishing commercial-scale, cost-effective domestic high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) production capabilities. According to the MoU, the companies will create a cost-competitive source of enrichment capacity at Centrus’ HALEU production facility to supply TerraPower’s Natrium reactor. This comes after the NRC approved Centrus’ request to begin production of HALEU at their Piketon, Ohio facility.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his appointments to the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council. Governor Lee created the Council to position Tennessee as a national leader for nuclear energy innovation and advancement. Additionally. Lee has also partnered with the Tennessee General Assembly to create a $50 million Nuclear Fund in the state’s fiscal year 2023-2024 budget.

U.S. uranium mining company Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC) announced plans to accelerate the resumption of operations at the Christensen Ranch in-situ leach (ISL) project in Wyoming. Uranium recovered from the Christensen Ranch site will be processed at the Irigaray central processing plant.
Noteworthy Research
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) published its 2023 edition of the Nuclear Security Index. The Index found for the first time that nuclear security conditions are regressing among the dozens of countries and areas with weapons-usable materials and nuclear facilities. This erosion comes at a time when risk environments are growing more dangerous and overall stockpiles of weapons-usable nuclear materials are increasing. In response to this troubling trend, NTI recommends that governments should require nuclear operators to increase the resiliency of facilities, ratify the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials if they have not done so already, and cap separated plutonium inventories at current levels.

A study commissioned by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has explored the potential of advanced nuclear technology for commercial marine propulsion. According to the study, the use of two 30 MW fast reactors on the container carrier would likely increase cargo capacity and operational speed while eliminating the need for refueling during its entire 25-year lifespan. Another study led by UK-based Newcleo will consider the feasibility of nuclear applications to the shipping industry, including Newcleo’s small modular lead-cooled fast reactor technology. Newcleo also signed an agreement with Fincantieri to carry out a feasibility study for nuclear applications to the shipping industry.

According to the Fusion Industry Association’s (FIA) third annual Global Fusion Industry Report, investment in the global fusion industry has now reached a cumulative $6.2 billion, up from $4.8 billion a year ago. The latest report surveyed 43 private fusion companies, of which 19 believed they would deliver power to the electric grid by 2035. However, the FIA noted that delivering power is not the same as being commercially, stating that challenges to nuclear fusion remain.

A report from the British parliament raises concerns over the growing influence China has over the United Kingdom’s civilian nuclear sector. Published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the report emphasizes security risks associated with Chinese investments and warns of the potential for China to gain control of the country’s civilian nuclear sector. It further questions the government’s approach towards Chinese investment and calls for a comprehensive assessment of the potential impact.
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.