In this week’s issue, we compare U.S.-Korea joint commitments made by Prime Ministers Moon and Yoon on nuclear energy development and collaboration. We spotlight a report from Columbia University documenting Russia’s dominance in nuclear reactor technology supply chains and offering options for decreasing that dependence. We also highlight the ongoing security situation at Ukraine’s Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
U.S.-ROK Joint Civil Nuclear Statements: Moon vs. Yoon
Yeseul Woo, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security

The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University released a report on May 23 highlighting Russia’s dominance in global supply chains of nuclear reactor technology. Of the 439 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide in 2021, 38 were in Russia, 42 were made with Russian nuclear reactor technology, and 15 more under construction at the end of 2021 were being built with Russian technology. Russia also accounted for 40% of the total uranium conversion infrastructure worldwide in 2020, and 46% of the total uranium enrichment capacity in the world in 2018. Given Russia’s dominance in nuclear reactor supply chains, the report offers options to become less dependent on Russian nuclear exports in the future.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports

Since Russia withdrew its military forces from the defunct Chernobyl power plant, the plant’s staff are now checking in on what the Russians stole from the facility. Chernobyl’s director Yevhen Kramarenko estimates that more than $135 million worth of equipment is now missing from the power plant, including computer software custom-made for the station. Nearby nuclear labs in Pripyat were also ransacked by Russian forces, with some buildings being entirely destroyed.
Ukraine’s Energoatom President, Petro Kotin, warns of possible disaster at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. According to Kotin, Russia has deployed to the plant more than 500 troops, as well as tanks and other military vehicles, and explosives and weapons are being stored on the premises of the facility. Kotin noted that the facility stores nuclear materials and warned that the Russian explosives could lead to a nuclear disaster.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he is pressing for access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Grossi expressed concern about the amount of weapon-grade nuclear material at the plant, which reportedly contains 30,000 kilograms of plutonium and 40,000 kilograms of enriched uranium.
In response to the IAEA’s request to inspect the Zaporizhzhia plant, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) stated that an inspection should not take place until the power plant is no longer under Russian control. The SNRIU argues that the power plant and the nearby city of Energodar contain Russian military forces and weapons, along with active fighting taking place nearby. Both Russia and Ukraine previously agreed on the importance of an IAEA visit but not under the other’s flag.
Although Russian forces currently control Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine has dismissed Russia’s plans to connect the facility to the Russian electricity grid. Russia’s deputy prime minister, Marat Khusnullin, stated that Russia would integrate the Zaporizhzhia plant with Russia’s energy system if Kyiv refused to pay for the plant’s electricity. The head of Energoatom stated it would take years to link the plant to Russia’s grid.
Nuclear Collaborations
Westinghouse Electric Company and South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction signed an agreement to jointly participate in global AP1000 plant opportunities. The strategic cooperation agreement enables Hyundai E&C to provide expertise in the construction of Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power units around the world. Hyundai E&C has built 14 of South Korea’s 24 operational reactors.

South Korea’s Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) has expressed its willingness to co-finance the construction of six nuclear power units in Poland. KHNP formally offered to construct APR1400 power units in April. The Polish government aims to have the country’s first nuclear reactor operating by 2033. Along with KHNP, France’s EDF and several U.S. companies have also made proposals to construct nuclear reactors in Poland. The U.S. has an intergovernmental agreement with Poland to support the development of its nuclear power program.

On May 21, U.S. President Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol committed to intensifying the nuclear energy collaboration between the two countries and accelerating the joint build-up of next generation Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The two leaders agreed that the U.S. and the ROK should engage in global civil-nuclear cooperation in accordance with the highest standards of nuclear nonproliferation to achieve a clean energy economy.

The United States said it would supply Romania with a training simulator in preparation for building a NuScale small modular reactor. The simulator would be located at a University in Bucharest and will be used to train Romanians and others in the region to operate these reactors. If the agreement to move ahead with a power station is reached, Romania could be the first country in Europe to operate a small modular reactor.

NuScale Power LLC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Romania’s state nuclear power corporation Nuclearelectrica to conduct engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti. The announcement is a key advancement of NuScale’s and Nuclearelectrica’s teaming agreement signed last year under which the two companies are working to deploy a VOYGR-6 462 megawatts electricity power plant.

On May 23, President Biden’s visit to Japan resulted in agreement from both sides to continue the U.S.-Japan Clean Energy and Energy Security Initiative (CEESI), and to initiate new bilateral task forces for cooperation for existing and new nuclear power technologies. Both sides also confirmed that they would collaborate under the U.S. State Department’s FIRST program to build capacity and expertise in third countries.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that three reactor sites in Japan have sent more than 30 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to the United States for down blending or disposal. The HEU was securely transported to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The operation to remove HEU from Japan’s power plants took 4 years to complete, with the original commitment announced at a 2018 U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation meeting.

South Korea and Bangladesh signed an MoU on enhancing cooperation in various fields beyond existing nuclear power cooperation in research. The South Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) will work on the utilization and upgrade of research reactors, the production and application of radioisotopes, the development of radiation technology, neutron science, and the management of radioactive wastes.

Best Engineering in Energy Solutions (BEES) and Seaborg signed an MoU to collaborate with South Korean regulators to identify and meet requirements for the construction and export of Seaborg’s floating nuclear power plants. Earlier this year, Seaborg signed a deal with Samsung Heavy Industries to build the Compact Molten Salt Reactor power barge. The timeline for Seaborg is for commercial prototypes to be built in 2024 with commercial production of power barges beginning from 2026.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Morocco is reportedly considering the construction of a nuclear power reactor as it seeks to become more energy independent and adopt greener modes of energy. The country’s parliament is set to deliberate on a feasibility report that presents a set of recommendations and covers the framework and infrastructure in which Morocco should invest to launch a nuclear power industry. Morocco currently imports 90% of its annual energy needs.

The IAEA completed its Artemis review mission of Lithuania’s national program for managing radioactive waste and decommissioning reactors. The Artemis team noted that Lithuania had successfully removed all used fuel from two units at the Ignalina plant and approved the ongoing work to dismantle the plant. It also made recommendations for Lithuania’s Ministry of Energy on further managing radioactive waste. Lithuania requested the IAEA mission to fulfill its a requirement for European Union member states to conduct an independent review for the management of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel.

The Philippines’ President-elect Bongbong Marcos held talks with South Korea’s envoy on potentially reviving the mothballed Bataan-1 Nuclear Power Plant. The 620-megawatt power plant has been left dormant since 1986. Marcos pledged to adopt nuclear power in the Philippines during his campaign as a means of addressing high electricity costs in the country.

Turkey has begun construction on the turbine building of unit 4 at the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. Some 17,500 cubic meters of concrete and 3,500 tons of steel reinforcement will be used in the construction of the foundation slab. Akkuyu Nuclear received a construction license for unit 4 in October 2021, and the first unit of the Akkuyu power plant is scheduled to generate power in 2023.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan will take steps to restart idled nuclear plants to make maximum use of nuclear power. The government is not considering replacing existing nuclear power plants with newer facilities. This announcement comes as Japan is still seeking ways to stabilize its energy supply and combat rising prices.

France’s nuclear generation is on course for a record-low May output, averaging 27.55 gigawatts versus 37.2 gigawatts in 2021. EDF’s Penly 2 reactor suffered an unplanned outage and the return of Cruas 4 was delayed two more weeks, leading EDF to cut France’s 2022 nuclear output estimate to a range of 280-300 terawatt hours. Over half of the French reactor fleet remains offline, adding an extra premium to power prices already at record highs.

Twenty European trade unions have urged members of the European Parliament to vote for the Complementary Climate Delegated Act (CDA) which provides for the inclusion of nuclear energy and natural gas in the EU taxonomy. The European Parliament has until July 10 to decide on the European Commission’s proposal to include nuclear and gas energy in the list of sustainable economic activities covered by the EU taxonomy. The unions argue that the CDA is critical in Europe’s quest to diversify energy supplies away from Russia and to achieve its climate targets.

Belgium’s federal government will spend €100 million ($107 million) on research into SMRs. The government is making €25 million per year available to the SCK-CEN nuclear research centre for research into fourth-generation small modular reactors for a period of four years. The funding is for research into SMRs that do not use water as a coolant but that use a liquid metal - sodium or lead - or a gas to cool the reactor core. If Belgium explores lead-cooled SMRs, it could benefit from the development pathway of the Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications (Myrrha) accelerator-driven research reactor.

Construction of unit 4 at the Xudapu nuclear power plant in China is officially underway with the pouring of the first concrete for the reactor’s nuclear island. The units are Russian VVER-1200 models, and Rosatom will design the nuclear island and supply key equipment. In 2019, Russia and China signed agreements that included a general contract for the construction.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (NHNP) announced that the Shin Hanul Unit 1 reached criticality on May 22 and is expected to be connected to the grid next month. This unit is the first power reactor in South Korea to achieve technological independence through the localization of core facilities and is an APR-1400 Korean model. The reactors were originally expected to enter service in 2017 but have undergone several delays.

British prime minister Boris Johnson stated this week that the British government is looking to build an SMR in Trawsfynydd, Wales. The British government announced on May 20 that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Welsh government-owned Cwmni Egino will cooperate on future nuclear development at the site. This plan is expected to be confirmed by the end of 2022.

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirzioyev has instructed his government to develop a four-year program aimed at furthering Uzbekistan’s uranium exploration program. Mirziyoyev set the task to develop an exploration program for 2022-2026 to develop 8 deposits and 18 promising sites with the use of modern drilling equipment from abroad. Uzbekistan is already the seventh largest uranium supplier in the world, and the government’s announcement follows the recent discovery of 27 new uranium deposits.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The U.S. Department of Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, sent a letter to Senator Joe Manchin asking for funding to create a domestic source of enriched uranium. Manchin is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This part of the response of the Biden administration to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related to potential sanctions against Rosatom. The United States has one commercial enrichment facility in New Mexico, with another one under construction in Ohio.

According to a new Rasmussen poll, 53% of American voters support the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States while 31% oppose. Additional findings indicate that 57% of respondents believe it is very important to reduce or eliminate the United States’ reliance on foreign sources of energy. The Rasmussen RMG poll was an online survey of 1,200 registered voters.

Following concerns voiced by an agency engineer about NuScale Power Corp’s new reactor’s susceptibility to earthquakes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) deemed the reactor safe on May 27. The NRC’s reactor regulatory staff concluded that NuScale’s evaluations were acceptable and updates to the design approval were unnecessary. NuScale is hoping to build the Carbon Free Power Project using multiple small modular reactors (SMR) at the Idaho National Laboratory, with the first scheduled to come online in 2029 and full plant operation in 2030.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) said that dozens of U.S. companies are working on fourth-generation reactor designs in a variety of sizes. However, NE noted that reactor developers still need help in lowering the risk of these technologies before key infrastructure and supply chains are lost. The Advanced Reactor Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is an office of DoE that has three programs to lower costs and reduce nuclear waste in order to support advanced reactors.

U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins released the State Department’s nine priorities related to nuclear security and nonproliferation known as “T”. Some of these priorities include fortifying arms control and nonproliferation, addressing emerging technologies from a national security perspective, promoting and advancing the U.S. civil nuclear industry, and strengthening existing alliances and partnerships. Jenkins also noted that the United States has to deal with changes stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rise of China.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed legislation streamlining regulatory procedures to bring nuclear microreactors to Alaska in the coming years. Requirements for legislative approval of a microreactor’s location and for continuous studies of a project by state regulatory agencies will be eliminated. Currently, the U.S. Air Force is looking at installing a microreactor at Eieilson Air Force Base by 2027, and Cooper Valley Electric Valley Association is looking at the possibility of installing one in Valdez.
The U.S. Department of Energy extended the deadline for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to keep running by 47 days. The statement came days after two industry trade groups sent a letter to Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, requesting the extension. Under the Civilian Nuclear Credit program, owners of nuclear reactors that are scheduled to retire will receive funding to keep their facilities open.
The shutdown of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan came on May 20, 11 days ahead of schedule. Employees removed the nuclear reactor from service reportedly because of the performance of a control rod driver seal. The facility’s shutdown was announced in 2017, and Holtec International will buy the plant and finish the decommissioning process after the used nuclear fuel is removed from the reactor.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) announced two prototype contracts to demonstrate nuclear propulsion and power capability for spacecraft. The contracts went to two companies, Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche Energy, to demonstrate a nuclear radioisotope battery and power capabilities for small spacecraft that would operate in cislunar space. DIU is the second military agency to seek cislunar nuclear technology, with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announcing earlier in May that it was moving forward with a project to design, develop, and assemble a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

China has approved a demonstration project for the deep underground exploration of hydrothermal uranium deposits in southern China. Chinese researchers have developed a method of pre-enriching uranium in seawater by membrane filtration. According to the Institute of Modern Physics (IMP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, there are about 4.5 billion tons of uranium existing in seawater, but China will need to reduce the concentration difference between uranium and coexisting ions.

The U.S.-based engineering group Jacobs has designed and built a remotely operated robotic tool to investigate debris in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Examination of the debris will provide crucial data for the next steps in the clean-up and decommissioning process, and it is expected that a radiation resistant version will be built to carry out the task of retrieving samples from the highly contaminated reactor. Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) selected Jacobs to support the decommissioning efforts as part of a five-year agreement.
Noteworthy Research
A study by Stanford University and the University of British Columbia, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has found that SMRs will increase the volume of nuclear waste in need of management and disposal when compared to existing, large reactors. The study found that SMRs will experience more neutron leakage due to their smaller size, which would increase the amount of radioactivity created by the activation process. The study analyzes the nuclear waste streams from three types of SMRs with results corroborated by theoretical calculations and a broader design survey.
In response to the PNAS-published study, NuScale, Chief Technology Officer Jose Reyes submitted a letter identifying and offering corrections to errors in the study. Reyes states that the study analyzed the NuScale 160 MW thermal core as opposed to the NuScale 250 MW thermal core being implemented in the updated NuScale VOYGR plants. He noted that the VOYGR plants will produce similar burnt fuel levels observed in the existing fleet of LWRs. Reyes also noted that the authors did not contact NuScale for information regarding fuel burn-up and that publicly available document on the subject was provided to another National Academies study group reviewing new and advanced reactors.

Additional comments on this PNAS dispute are available from Neutron Bytes.
The Energy Intelligence Agency (EIA) released the 2021 Marketing Annual Report detailing the United States’ uranium marketing activities over the past five years. During 2021, owners and operators of U.S. nuclear power plants purchased a total of 46.7 million pounds of U3O8, of which 44.3 million pounds was of foreign origin. U.S. commercial uranium inventories were 141.7 million pounds U3O8 at the end of 2021, an 8% increase from the previous year. 25.2 million pounds U3O8 was held by US brokers and traders, almost three times the amount reported just two years ago.
The Nuclear Conversation
CNBC, June 2
The Hill, May 31
The Hill, May 29
World Nuclear News, May 27
Bloomberg, May 27
France 24, May 26
The Holland Sentinel, May 26
The Washington Post, May 24
Interesting Engineering, May 24
Oil Price, May 24
CNBC, May 23
Columbia SIPA, May 23
World Economic Forum, May 22
Reuters, May 22
Euractiv, May 20
Wired, May 20
Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, May 20
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