In this issue, we highlight new bilateral agreements, including a statement signed by Russia and China to strengthen global strategic security, and the memorandum of cooperation signed by the United States and Poland. We also note recent policy developments in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Lastly, we include reports examining the Made in China 2025 and One Belt One Road initiatives. 
Advancing Nuclear Innovation: Responding to Climate and Security Challenges
The Global Nexus Initiative (GNI) published an important and groundbreaking new analysis of the implications of advanced nuclear reactor technologies for responding to climate change and strengthening global security. Its findings are significant for U.S. and international policy makers because as the Washington Post pointed out on the day of the report’s release, “nuclear remains a critical source of low-carbon emissions baseload electric power.” Previously, the International Energy Agency noted that it will be very difficult to meet the Paris agreement’s carbon dioxide reduction goals without expanding nuclear power.

The GNI report assessed advanced nuclear power from four perspectives: climate, non-proliferation, security, and geopolitics; and it proposed concrete, actionable recommendations. There were five primary results.

Advanced reactors are an important component of the global strategy to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Carbon emissions have climbed to their highest level ever based on NASA’s assessment and are relentlessly rising. The space agency notes that fossil fuel burning at a business-as-usual rate will drive CO 2 levels to an extreme level. In order for advanced reactors to make a timely contribution to meet global energy and climate goals, they must be ready for deployment in the 2025-30 timeframe when older larger reactors likely will enter an accelerated decommissioning phase. The Congress is pushing these advanced technologies forward in rare bipartisan legislation.

Vital to the deployment of any civil nuclear technology is the prevention of nuclear proliferation. GNI determined that it had “high confidence” that any of the advanced reactor concepts can be effectively safeguarded to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. But those safeguards measures will very likely be different from those applied to light-water reactors (LWRs). To ensure effective proliferation prevention, the safeguards must be designed into the reactor. This will avoid the difficult process of retrofitting a safeguards system to a new technology. However, in order to achieve “safeguards by design” the reactor development community and the experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will need to begin substantive discussions quickly and engage often.

Also critical for advanced reactors is their ability to operate securely and prevent insider tampering and terrorist exploitation. A challenge for advanced reactors will be ensuring nuclear security if they are deployed in remote locations. Because of their smaller size, decreased power output, and industrial process applicability, these reactors may be used in developing economy countries and for processes including water desalination. Many of these nations are located in unstable regions, face terrorist threats, and are ranked low on the scale of effective governance .

As a result, fortifying global nuclear governance is a key recommendation from GNI. Advanced reactors present some unique new challenges and the international community needs to ensure that the nuclear governance system is strengthened to support these technologies. A “race to the bottom” on nuclear governance must be avoided. It cannot be a consequence of the conflict over market share among exporting nations. The effectiveness of the governance regime will have a direct impact on public confidence in these new reactors. A key part of that process must be comprehensively assisting nations interested in the new reactors so that they are prepared for their deployment and operation. This will require that exporting nations work with the IAEA and supplement their current programs.

The future of nuclear governance for advanced reactors will be directly impacted by the nations that are exporting these technologies. The geopolitics of nuclear export is a rising issue as the U.S., Russia, and China compete more intensively on the global stage. There are significant regulatory, safeguards and security developments that will be required for advanced reactors. Historically, the nations that dominate the export market have an outsized influence on these issues; in the past that had been the U.S. and its allies. Now, Russia is dominating LWR exports and China is looking to close that gap. The fight for the advanced reactor market is just beginning and which countries take the lead in that battle will have a direct influence on global security.

The world is at a unique point and facing numerous new challenges. A business-as-usual approach in any area of global importance is inadequate. Addressing the real-world challenges of this century requires creativity and measured risk taking, not a retreat to traditional comfort zones. A key part of this new environment is technological competition, including on the development and deployment of clean and distributed energy systems. This includes safe, secure, and proliferation resistant advanced nuclear reactors. The GNI analysis offers the first publicly available, comprehensive assessment of the safeguards, security, and geopolitical implications of these new reactors.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security

“Nuclear innovation is essential in the 21 st  century, a period of powerful technological evolution and intensifying global competition. The challenges posed by climate change and to global nuclear security must be addressed in a strong and effective manner. Advanced reactors are an important response to both of these critical issues.”
Nuclear Collaboration
DOE Secretary Rick Perry and his Polish counterpart, Piotr Naimski, signed a memorandum of cooperation in civil nuclear energy between the two countries. The signing coincides with Polish President Andrzej Duda's visit to the US.

President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently signed a statement seeking to strengthen global strategic stability by actively promoting nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Rosatom and Slovakia’s Ministry of Economy signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the use of nuclear energy. The agreement seeks to modernize Slovakia’s nuclear power plants (NPPs), ensure safe and consistent supplies of Russian nuclear fuel, implement construction and decommission of Slovak NPPs, include Slovak organizations and companies in Rosatom projects, and develop joint-training projects.

Ukraine and Norway have agreed to cooperate to reduce the risk of nuclear and radiation accidents and incidents by strengthening their nuclear safety regimes, agency regulatory frameworks and capabilities, and development of human resources through education and training.

South Korea and Russia recently agreed to cooperate to develop innovative nuclear technology, including safe fuel, nuclear fusion, and power cells.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
South Korean companies that manufacture NPP components are struggling financially due to the government’s nuclear phase-out plan. A new poll of manufacturers indicated concern that new plants will be developed with native technology in the future, and that insufficient government support may jeopardize the safety of existing NPPs.

Japan plans to cut carbon emissions from utilities that rely heavily on fossil fuel plants by pursuing renewable energy and nuclear power moving forward. However, new safety standards following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster have slowed the process. About half of the 54 reactors have been designated for decommissioning, with only 9 resuming operation since 2011.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit reports that several UK NPPs may need to be taken offline early due to faults with their advanced gas-cooled reactors. Shutting down the reactors could result in the electricity system falling short by more than a third of current annual demand, and lead to an additional 268 million tons of CO2 to be produced by 2035.

Germany is facing growing pressure from business leaders to postpone plans to phase out nuclear energy in order to protect the environment. Germany generates 30 percent of its electricity from coal, and experts caution that renewables may not yet be ready to replace the 13 percent currently generated by nuclear.

Members of Parliament in Australia affiliated with the Queensland Liberal National Party have advocated for the removal of the country’s ban on nuclear power in pursuit of clean energy solutions for the electricity mix.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
A bipartisan House version of the Senate’s Nuclear Energy Leadership Act could be introduced as soon as next week, which requires the DOE to create a strategic plan for nuclear, including two reactor projects to be developed by 2025, and two to five additional advanced reactor designs by 2035.

Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are coordinating a bipartisan effort to block President Trump’s use of emergency powers to bypass Congress and complete 22 arms deals with Saudi Arabia. This comes as details emerge regarding the Part 810 agreements established between the two countries.

Lawmakers in Ohio are reviewing House Bill 6 to generate about $200 million annually with a residential charge of $2.50 per month to support its struggling Perry and Davis-Besse NPPs.

Entergy has closed its Pilgrim NPP in Massachusetts, which will be followed by the closure of Indian Point units 2 and 3 in New York, and Palisades in Michigan, respectively, by 2022. Entergy has stated that it is committed to the continued operation of five NPPs in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

US DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy awarded $2.35 million to a team at Stony Brook University for a project that will develop advanced moderator technologies to increase the output of modular high-temperature gas cooled reactors while reducing the reactor footprint and overall costs.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies 
Designers of NPPs in China are using virtual reality technologies and numerical software developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology to build virtual plants and simulate all scenarios and events throughout the lifespan of a nuclear reactor.

Cyber attacks on NPPs are on the rise, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) warns that the shortage of cyber expertise will jeopardize the agency’s ability to defend against such risks. In 2009, the NRC required plants to defend their IT infrastructure against cyber incursions. Although the NRC is currently verifying compliance, insufficient human capital may weaken its ability to do so.

A system under development at Purdue University uses AI to detect cracks captured in videos of nuclear reactors. The footage is analyzed frame-by-frame to detect any structural damage while the algorithm scheme tracks the crack from one frame to the next.
Noteworthy Research
A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation finds that export controls to emerging and foundational technologies as developed by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security may hinder the competitiveness of American advanced technology industries. US firms may lose $14.1 to $56.3 billion in export sales. The export controls should be established to protect US national security interests without harming US competitiveness in emerging technologies.

The Department of Defense published the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report to signal American commitment to “preparedness, partnerships, and the promotion of a networked region.” Among other topics, the report cites security concerns over the “military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics” accompanying China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission published a new report finding the Made in China 2025 campaign seeks to elevate China as a global leader in key industries through domestic innovation and decreased reliance on foreign technology. The report concludes that China is a serious competitor to the US and EU in key industrial sectors, including nuclear energy and advanced technology.
The Nuclear Conversation
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