In this issue, we highlight China’s expansion into the global nuclear market as part of its Belt and Road initiative, including projects in Argentina and Pakistan. We also include positions on nuclear power declared by Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination. Additionally, we note bicameral bills which would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a 10-year nuclear energy strategic plan.
Embracing Risk to Position Next Generation Nuclear Energy 
The 1960’s space race to the Moon was an extremely focused, ambitious, and risky national objective. That same level of national motivation and risk taking now needs to be applied to the clean energy technologies that will power the future. This is particularly important for underappreciated, emerging technologies that can complement renewable energy sources like small, advanced nuclear reactors.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to imagine the U.S. government laser focusing on this national, technical, and humanitarian clean energy objective. This is one example of what the government getting serious could look like. The more likely long-term scenario is dramatic but incremental change that scales up renewable energy  while still leaving the world about 40% powered by fossil fuels in 2050.

The U.S. achieved Moonshot success because there was intense focus by the U.S. government, large expenditures on uncertain new technologies, partnership and innovation from the private sector, and personal risks taken by astronauts.

The New York Times reported that despite their national celebrity, astronauts could not get life insurance. So, they created “insurance covers” including signing commemorative envelopes for their families to sell if their lives were lost on a mission. Judged by this remarkable and noble yardstick, America’s official risk appetite seems to have significantly decreased since Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon in July 1969.

But as a new report makes clear, the U.S. has resurrected public-private partnerships to help it recover from its lagging position in space launch. The support that the U.S. provided to Space X has allowed it to become a global space launch leader, cutting deeply into the significant lead that Russia had just 5 years ago. The key to this success was that the federal government provided “cost sharing for research, development and demonstration, and act[ed] as a first customer.”

The U.S. and its allies find themselves in a similar position in the civil nuclear environment. Once the world’s leaders in the development, deployment and export of zero-carbon nuclear energy, they now find themselves fighting for a seat at the nuclear export table with a dominant Russia and an emerging China.

That situation can be reversed as new, small, advanced technology reactors emerge as the next wave of nuclear power. But much more needs to be done to underpin this repositioning.

The Russian and Chinese governments are actively supporting their next generation nuclear technologies and linking them to their geopolitical ambitions. It is difficult for any private sector company to effectively compete on this severely tilted state-dominated playing field. And the U.S. and allied governments are slowly coming to realize the implications of being on the sidelines. The loss of the next generation nuclear market to these two authoritarian nations will have significant geostrategic, global security, and non-proliferation consequences.

But, the private-public formula that made Space X soar is not yet being applied in advanced nuclear. The urgency is lacking despite a serious bipartisan push from Congress . Instead, there is a small stream of federal financing for advanced nuclear projects, a deferral to the private sector, and an unwillingness to plot a strategy for success.

But venture investors are not going to put real money into these technologies without a clear signal of long-term, deep-pocketed commitment from the U.S. government. As Bill Gates has made clear, private investors will match or exceed the government contribution but it must be much more substantial.

And, the U.S. will need to team up with its allies, particularly Canada, Japan and South Korea to pool resources, talent, and test beds and collectively develop effective governance structures for these new technologies.

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon. It was the culmination and validation of a decade of enormous risk taking. Over the next fifty years, one of the world’s greatest human needs is to become carbon free. Achieving that essential goal will once again require embracing risk. 

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
Innovative Physics Ltd, a UK-based research and development company, has signed an agreement with China Environmental Protection Company Ltd on technologies and skills to further improve the environmental safety of NPPs in China and abroad.

Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament has ratified the Agreement on International Cooperation between the Kazakh Government and the European Organization for Nuclear Research to collaborate on fundamental and applied nuclear physics, nuclear and radiation technology research. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Standing committee member Wang Shoujun of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference said it could build as many as 30 nuclear reactors along the Belt and Road by 2030. He added that China should improve research and development, localize production, and expand into domestic and foreign nuclear markets to develop “comprehensive advantages” in costs and technology.

Despite political and economic woes, Argentina has reaffirmed its commitment to a deal with China to satisfy its energy needs with Chinese technological and financial support for the planned Atucha III NPP in the Buenos Aires province.

China is providing public access to its NPPs to educate people, dispel their concerns, and generate greater confidence in the safety of the country’s nuclear sector. Authorities seek to reassure the public of the safety mechanisms in place to prevent any fallout from system failures or natural disasters.

China seeks to build a pilot small-scale nuclear reactor for heating residential areas in China’s colder northern regions, which could replace coal and gas use in smog-affected areas.

An outer safety dome has been installed on the containment building of unit 2 at the Karachi NPP in Pakistan. The unit is the first of two Hualong One reactors supplied by China that are being built at the site.

Russia and China are supporting Egypt’s efforts to meet energy demand by assisting with diversifying Egypt’s energy portfolio. Policy experts express concern over the increasing reliance on Russia and China, most notably in nuclear, for electricity needs.
Rosatom unveils its floating NPP to provide power to sparsely populated regions in the Arctic circle and the Russian Far East. Despite concerns over the risks from natural disasters and possible attacks, Rosatom stated that the unit was designed to prevent fuel meltdowns and other emergencies. Commercial operation is scheduled for the end of 2019.
Rosenergoatom says that the second unit of the Novovoronezh II NPP south of Moscow has gone into pilot commercial operation . It is among the four VVER-1200 reactors planned for the site. The reactor is the Russian nuclear industry’s flagship product, seeing it as part of its expansion for global sales.

Kazatomprom chief executive Galymzhan Pirmatov cautions that uranium tariffs could be harmful to the consumer-based US nuclear industry, a key market for uranium producers and exporters.

Amid competing business from China, France, Russia, and South Korea, DOE Secretary Rick Perry told Congress that Saudi Arabia must  commit  to broad international NPP monitoring program and nonproliferation standards with the US if it develops reactors containing US technology.

Japan is trying to increase the number of nuclear engineers working for domestic companies as part of its plan to raise the ratio of nuclear power to all energy sources to at least 20 percent by 2030.

The Global Forum on Innovation for the Future of Nuclear Energy hosted by the IAEA in South Korea concluded recently. A ‘Call to Action’ for innovative solutions to sustain and advance NPPs currently in operation was issued by nuclear industry leaders, regulators, researchers, government representatives and technology providers. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Eleven candidates for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election have declared their positions on nuclear power, including those in support of new technologies to mitigate climate change.

Bipartisan House Representatives introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act H.R. 3306 , identical to companion bill S. 903 , which would require the DOE to create a 10-year nuclear energy strategic plan.

The Senate confirmed Rita Baranwal, director of the DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear initiative, as Assistant Secretary of Energy for nuclear energy.

A new analysis reveals that the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) holds one of the lowest carbon emissions rates among the country’s largest power producers. Ranking among the top quartile nationwide for zero-carbon generation, PSEG’s Salem and Hope Creek NPPs produce more than 90 percent of New Jersey’s carbon-free electricity.  
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies 
Noteworthy Research
An inquiry led by the Royal Society of Edinburgh finds that a substantial increase in low-carbon electricity production is needed if Scotland is to reach its new goal of net-zero emissions by 2045. It urges investment in new NPPs to hit the country’s climate goals.

The Update to The Role For Nuclear In UK's Transition to a Low Carbon Economy outlines findings from the Energy Technologies Institute’s Nuclear Cost Drivers (NCD), including the application of NCD data and associated learning. This research demonstrates how current giga-watt scale reactors remain the only readily deployable designs of significant numbers in the UK between 2025 and 2035.
The Nuclear Conversation
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.
1400 I (Eye) St. NW, Suite 440
Washington, DC 20005