In this week’s newsletter, we analyze some of the potential showstopping obstacles to the deployment of next-gen nuclear power. We spotlight recent legislative developments surrounding U.S. nuclear exports and the Breakthrough Institute and partners' Build Nuclear Now initiative. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.

The Nuclear News and Views newsletter will be taking a break for the Fourth of July holiday. The next edition of the newsletter will be published on July 14.
Overcoming Obstacles to Next-Gen Reactor Deployment
A meeting in Austin this month crystalized a growing concern about whether the U.S. has an effective strategy for actually deploying the next generation of smaller nuclear reactors into which it is pouring billions of dollars in technology development.
The key insight into the dilemma was offered by a senior official from the Department of Energy’s clean energy loan program. She stated, “The industry is stuck in a stalemate, where utilities are staring at reactor developers, reactor developers are staring at the suppliers, and no one is ready to move or make real capital decisions about building new nuclear.”
This statement is consistent with the March 2023 DoE report on “Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Advanced Nuclear.” That report also makes clear that beyond the stare-off between the reactor developers and utilities, there are other serious challenges facing advanced nuclear power commercialization.
These include creating a committed order book for one or a few reactors under development, reinvigorating the industrial supply chain for nuclear power, creating fuel for these reactors, and streamlining the licensing process.
On the licensing issue, there is at the moment another kind of impasse.
The Congress passed legislation requiring the NRC to develop a streamlined licensing process for advanced reactors that was signed into law. The result of that mandate was Part 53, described as a “Risk Informed, Technology Inclusive Regulatory Framework for Advanced Reactors.”
Except maybe it isn’t.
A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee convened a hearing this week with the chairman and commissioners of the NRC to assess “Efficient and Predictable Nuclear Safety Regulation.” During the testimony, one commissioner said, “I’m struggling a bit with the nature of the…draft [regulatory] proposal that the vast majority of the industry considers unworkable.”
The inability to reform the NRC regulatory review could prove a major setback to the deployment of the “hundreds…maybe thousands of nuclear facilities here in the United States” that at least one congressman thinks is the objective of the government’s investment.
The frustration is not limited to the NRC. It also has taken aim at the DoE approach to developing nuclear fuel for the next-generation of reactors.
The high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel that many advanced reactors need to run on is not available for commercial purchase from an American company. This fuel enables smaller reactors to produce more power and run for longer periods. The fuel is available from Russia. But because it has become an international pariah as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, leading companies like TerraPower will not purchase the Russian product even though that will delay its reactor deployment by at least two years.
DoE is trying to remedy the scarcity of HALEU by responding to a congressional mandate that domestic uranium enrichment be restarted. The centerpiece of the effort is the reconstitution of the uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio and DoE has entered into a $150 million cost share contract to produce the fuel.
But the HALEU production will start slowly with a goal of 20 kilograms by the end of this year. Full production is likely years away and it is estimated that “more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed before the end of the decade.” This has given rise to criticism about whether DoE can actually produce the needed quantities for the reactor demonstrations into which the Congress has poured taxpayer dollars and whether it can support extensive reactor deployment.
Beyond the domestic needs of HALEU and the potential deployment of small reactors on U.S. territory, is the importance of developing export markets for American peaceful nuclear technology.
Here again, the Congress has taken the lead in pushing for the ascension of the U.S. as a major nuclear exporter.
A new bipartisan Senate bill offers enhanced “financing tools” within the Export-Import Bank that will enable U.S. companies to better compete with the reactor packages of Russia and China. That is essential because as bill co-sponsor, Senator Jim Risch, noted, “If we allow Russia and China to dominate the nuclear energy field, it will be nearly impossible to undo.”
There is little doubt that an enhanced financing package that links the U.S. government with private companies in this battle for market share is necessary. Russia and China both underwrite their state-owned companies export activities, as noted by the bill’s other co-sponsor, Senator Joe Manchin, and they use that leverage for commercial and geopolitical purposes.
However, even if this legislation becomes law, there still is a glaring gap in the approach that the U.S. and allied nations are taking to prepare developing economy nations to actually purchase and use these small nuclear reactors.
U.S. efforts to prepare nations for small reactors are remarkably spare and incremental, focused on capacity building in nations with little indigenous capacity to be expanded. Little focus has been given to a concept that would allow licensed U.S. and allied operators to run reactors in third countries while the indigenous capability is developed. But that’s what may be necessary to help ensure market share.
The alternative is the IAEA’s laborious Milestones approach that is designed for the deployment of large, not small, reactors and requires at least a 10 year commitment from countries.
These regulatory, fuel, and export issues, which can be showstoppers for next-gen reactors are creating pressure and pointed policy recommendations from civil society to get the ball moving faster. If these matters continue to fester because of ineffective integration, strategy, and discipline within the Biden administration, there will be a backlash from both sides of the aisle.
The next two years are critical for laying down the policy framework for nuclear power in its new context as a carbon reduction technology and energy security spearhead.
Despite the abysmal nature of America’s political warfare, the climate change and geopolitical roles of nuclear energy are bipartisan priorities. As the American Nuclear Society has underscored, failure is not an option. Unfortunately, at the moment it is a possibility.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jim Risch (D-ID) introduced the Civil Nuclear Export Act of 2023. The bipartisan legislation would enhance the ability of the United States to compete in existing and emerging nuclear markets and will help U.S. partners and allies reduce dependence on Russian and Chinese civil nuclear technologies. In the House of Representatives, the Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). During the hearing, NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson summarized the NRC’s accomplishments over the previous year and noted the ability of the NRC to be a crucial partner in U.S. nuclear technology exports. Elsewhere, the Breakthrough Institute, in cooperation with 5 other organizations, launched its Build Nuclear Now campaign. Build Nuclear Now is a national campaign engaging Americans in targeted states to call for regulatory and legislative change to accelerate the licensing and deployment of new advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi traveled to Ukraine this week to meet President Zelensky and assess the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant following last week’s damage to the Kakhovka dam. Although this has caused the reservoir providing cooling water to the reactor to drain, there is sufficient water in the reactor cooling pond to last several months. In response, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator has ordered unit 5 to transition to cold shutdown: it is currently the only unit remaining in hot shutdown mode, in which state it provides heat to the plant and the nearby town of Enerhodar. However, Russian control is preventing this from occurring. Meanwhile, Rosatom put out a statement that all Russian nuclear power plants are reliably protected.
Westinghouse announced a contract with Ukraine’s Energoatom to design, manufacture, and deliver Long-Term Containment Cooling Systems as part of the modernization of the Rivne Nuclear Power Plants units 1 and 2. The systems will improve safety margins by ensuring stable heat removal and effective depressurization in case of an accident. The systems will be delivered to Rivne next year.
The United Kingdom is increasing funding to the IAEA by ₤750,000 ($932,475) in order to support nuclear safety work in Ukraine. Britain said it had now provided ₤5 million in total to support the IAEA in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
Nuclear Collaborations
The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and U.S. President Joe Biden announced the Atlantic Declaration for a US-UK Economic Partnership which includes a significant nuclear component. Near-term priorities for joint action will be set by the US-UK Joint Action Group on Energy Security and Affordability (the JAG), to encourage the establishment of new infrastructure and end-to-end fuel cycle capabilities by 2030 in both continents, and substantially minimize reliance on Russian fuel, supplies, and services. The partnership will broadly support the safe and secure deployment of SMRs and other advanced nuclear technologies. The Kremlin criticized this move as creating unfair competition for Russia’s nuclear industry.
France's Framatome and Slovakia's Slovenské elektrárne signed a memorandum of understanding on working together to develop a "100% European" nuclear fuel for VVER-440 pressurized water reactors. Framatome stated that it has been asked by all European VVER operating utilities to contribute to developing a fuel solution to avoid any disruption in service. There are fourteen VVER-440 reactors across Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
Slovakia's Ministry of Economy and Slovenské elektrárne have signed a memorandum of cooperation with a range of partners in the energy field to support the development of small modular reactors (SMR) in Slovakia, including applying for funding from the USA's Project Phoenix. The joint application is for a grant of $2.16 million offered under the umbrella of programs at the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce. Slovakia currently has five operating nuclear reactors generating half of its electricity, with an additional unit under construction.
Romanian nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica signed a memorandum of understanding with several partners, including Samsung C&T and Texas-based Fluor Corporation, to collaborate on deploying NuScale small modular reactors (SMR) in Romania as well as potential locations across Eastern Europe. The location in Romania will be at a former coal-fired plant in Doicești which will produce up to 462 megawatts electric (MWe). It is slated to be the first NuScale SMR outside of the United States.

Armenia is examining options for a new nuclear power plant, with a Russian unit of 1000-1200 megawatts electric (MWe) currently preferred. Armenia and Russia signed an interstate agreement on the project in May, though a final decision has not been reached and the type of reactor is not finalized. The country is also considering South Korean, French, and American technologies with the U.S. specifically proposing the construction of small modular reactors (SMR). Armenia aims to decide on the electrical capacity of the project by the end of the year.
Rosatom has signed a fresh memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with Kyrgyzstan on the non-energy application of nuclear technologies in healthcare, as well as updating the country on progress of a project for the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR). The memorandum covers plans to jointly develop high-tech medical projects in Kyrgyzstan. A pre-study on the development of the SMR project is expected to be completed this year.
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) held a meeting in the Netherlands to pursue nuclear power cooperation with the country. KHNP showcased its domestic technology and held B2B meetings between enterprises from both countries. KHNP hopes to expand mutual cooperation and human exchange with the Netherlands.
Canada’s Ontario Power Generation signed a letter of intent to provide operator services for SMRs to Poland’s Orlen Synthos Green Energy. The partnership includes activities such as development and deployment, operator training, maintenance, and regulatory support. Poland plans to deploy a fleet of BWRX-300 reactors: the first of its kind will operate in Darlington, Ontario by 2028.
Kazatomprom completed its second delivery of fuel assemblies to China. Next year, the Ulba-FA LLP plant will increase production to reach its full capacity of 200 tons per year. Work is completed by a joint Kazakh-Chinese team, with the two countries pledging to strengthen their partnership in the future. Several more batches of fuel are slated for delivery by the end of the year.
Finnish utility Fortum concluded a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse to explore prerequisites for the development and deployment of new nuclear builds in Finland and Sweden. Fortum is partway through a two-year feasibility study on this topic, considering SMRs and conventional large reactors. Any investment decisions will be made at a later stage.
UK clean space propulsion systems and services company Pulsar Fusion has formed a partnership with USA-based Princeton Satellite Systems to use artificial intelligence (AI) to design a hyper-fast space rocket capable of reaching Mars in only 30 days. The companies will use machine learning to study data from the Princeton field-reverse configuration reactor to analyze the behavior of super-hot fusion plasma as it exits a rocket engine emitting exhaust particles at hundreds of kilometers per second. Pulsar CEO Richard Dinan believes that fusion propulsion can be demonstrated in space decades before fusion energy can be used on Earth.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stated that the kingdom would prefer the United States as one of its bidders for its nuclear energy program, although others are already bidding. While reports have emerged claiming that Saudi Arabia is asking for U.S. aid for its nuclear program in exchange for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, Prince Faisal did not address whether the two issues are linked during his press conference. The conference was held with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who did not comment on the nuclear question.
The European Union’s draft Net-Zero Industry Act aims to ensure Europe is capable of domestically producing at least 40% of the technologies it deems “strategic” to achieve its goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050: nuclear energy has been deemed to not meet the “strategic” threshold, except for SMRs. Critics have argued that the European supply chain manufacturing key components such as valves must be strengthened, and that including nuclear power will speed up permitting for plants needed for this purpose. EU member states and the European Parliament aim to reach agreement on a final text by the end of the year.
France is seeking to reopen negotiations over a key Green Deal law in an effort to ensure a greater role for nuclear power in Europe’s energy transition. The French government informed Sweden that it is seeking changes to the EU framework deal previously agreed to in March, which would raise the region’s 2030 renewable target to 42.5% of total energy consumption while providing a small role for nuclear power. Meanwhile, Germany has teamed up with other EU states to block the move.
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), began tests of newly constructed facilities for discharging treated radioactive water into the ocean. Plant workers examined pumps and emergency shutdown equipment at the newly constructed facility, which will dilute treated water with large amounts of seawater. Tepco says the voluntary tests are expected to continue for about two weeks ahead of mandatory pre-operation checks to be conducted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).
South Korea will begin work to build the foundations for the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 nuclear reactors awaiting final approval by the state nuclear agency. The government approved a comprehensive plan for the project and decided to begin preparatory work on the site, with the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission supposed to make a final approval on the construction plan within the next couple of years. The $9.08 billion project is expected to be completed by around 2032 or 2033.
The operations team of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Barakah Nuclear Power Plant has begun the final operational readiness testing needed before the fourth unit can receive an operating license from the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Each of Barakah’s four units requires a separate operating license from the FANR before it can be commissioned and operated. The first three units are currently operational, with unit 3 declared in commercial operation earlier this year.
France will grant more than 100 million euros ($107.8 million) to train workers and boost innovation in civil nuclear projects over the next decade. The government will also receive a plan from the nuclear industry breaking down its needs, after an initial estimate earlier this year revealed that it required 100,000 new recruits by 2033. The training push follows French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to renationalize EDF and convene a pan-European nuclear alliance.
French utility Électricité de France (EDF) returned to full state ownership last week. EDF suffered a record loss last year, with net financial debt increasing by 50%. Faults in pipework continue to curb output. For large industrial users, EDF is seeking long-term contracts at a higher price to cover costs and planned investments.
Finland is nearing completion of the Onkalo repository, which will be the first spent nuclear fuel disposal facility. The repository is designed to house a total of 6,500 tons of uranium, covering the spent fuel produced by Finland’s five nuclear reactors during their lifetime. Final trials on the facility will be conducted in early 2024.
Preparatory works for the Hungarian Paks II nuclear power plant project will begin next month, following contract changes in April. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also held talks with Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev on the project last week. The plant is slated for completion in 2032.
Poland’s permit application for its first nuclear power plant took a step forward this week. The application must include an independent verification of its safety analysis. The president of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency issued an opinion confirming that the scope and description of the independent verification were correctly completed.
The OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency held a workshop in South Korea on disruptive technologies and the nuclear sector. The technologies include AI, 3D printing, and advanced robotics. These innovations can pose challenges to regulators but also improve the safety and competitiveness of the nuclear industry. Industry and regulatory bodies, research organizations, and academia all participated to discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by the new technologies.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards submitted its approval for Kairos Power’s Hermes test reactor. Kairos submitted its application to build the demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park in 2021. The Hermes is a 35-megawatt thermal fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor.
The Department of Energy announced $26 million in funding for groups of university, nonprofit, and private-sector partners that will work with communities interested in the DoE’s consent-based siting for spent nuclear fuel. Awardees will represent a consent-based siting consortium, and they will collectively help the Department facilitate engagement activities and dialogue.

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) has delivered uranium nitride coated tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel to NASA’s Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion program. Nuclear thermal propulsion for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs, including higher efficiency and greater power density resulting in lower propulsion system weight.
The Department of Energy released two draft Requests for Proposal (RFP), one for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) purchases and a second for deconversion of HALEU into uranium oxide and other forms of fuel fabrication. The DoE is looking for feedback on the draft solicitations, including the goals, scope, and selection criteria before issuing the final RFPs later this year. However, one Nuclear Energy Institute official stated that due to a current lack of sufficient funding, the only commitment the DoE will make is for licensing costs for HALEU facilities.
Constellation Energy Corp. has announced that it is placing its $1 billion nuclear hydrogen plan on hold as it waits to find out if the U.S. government intends to provide the expected tax credit that would play a vital role in the project. In the coming months, the U.S. Treasury Department will be providing guidance to clarify how nuclear hydrogen suppliers will be able to qualify for a subsidy as high as $3 per kilogram as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. Constellation added that the future of the Pink H2 project will be decided on the types of limits that will be imposed by the Biden Administration.
According to the latest survey by Bisconti Research Inc., U.S. public support remains at a record high level for the third consecutive year. The results show 76% of the individuals surveyed strongly or somewhat favored the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States. The National Nuclear Energy Public Opinion Survey included 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults.
The Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences program announced last month it is soliciting proposals for projects dedicated to inertial fusion energy (IFE), which uses tools such as lasers to compress atomic nuclei in a fuel target until they fuse. The department expects to award a total of $45 million in grants through its solicitation, creating a series of IFE Science and Technology Hubs. The IFE initiative is part of the Fusion Energy Sciences program’s efforts to pave the way for building a pilot fusion power plant.
Constellation Energy is purchasing NRG Energy’s 44% ownership stake in the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station for $1.75 billion. Following the transaction, Constellation will be one of three owners with oversight of the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, which will continue to operate the plant. The purchase is subject to approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Justice Department.
Noteworthy Research
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Academies of Sciences (NASEM) released individual reports highlighting some of the challenges the Department of Energy (DoE) faces in treating the millions of gallons of legacy waste at the Hanford site in Washington state. Both reports focus on recent efforts by the DoE to assess possible alternatives to vitrifying Hanford’s 54 million gallons of liquid tank waste. However, the GAO assessed that construction of the Pretreatment Facility and High-Level Waste Facility cannot currently be completed as planned due to technical issues. Additionally, the site’s Low-Activity Waste Facility does not have the capacity to vitrify all of Hanford’s low-level waste.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) published its uranium marketing annual report. Owners and operators of U.S. civilian nuclear power reactors purchased a total of 40.5 million pounds of uranium from U.S. suppliers and foreign suppliers during 2022, with civilian owners/operators (COOs) signing 27 new purchase contracts with deliveries of 4.6 million pounds of uranium in 2022. The largest sources of uranium delivered in 2022 was of foreign-origin, with Canada, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Australia comprising the top four uranium suppliers.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Alex de Ramon, 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.