In this week’s issue, we discuss the recent thawing of previously halted U.S.-South Korea civil nuclear cooperation and renewed opportunity to establish a united front on nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation. We also highlight the Biden Administration’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes a $1.85 billion boost for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy to support existing and advanced nuclear technologies. Finally, we bring attention to the latest developments in the Canadian advanced reactor licensing process as several vendors further their engagement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Repairing the U.S.-ROK Nuclear Rift
The ice finally has broken in the two-year-plus civil nuclear Cold War between the U.S. and South Korea.
In a joint statement from the summit between Presidents Biden and Moon, the countries committed to “develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects.”
The leaders went further in the fact sheet from the summit committing to “promote coordination in the supply chain” that will support this collaboration in overseas nuclear markets.
But the real olive branch was the commitment by South Korea to “adopt a common policy with the United States to require recipient countries have an IAEA safeguard agreement Additional Protocol in place as a condition of supply of nuclear power plants.”
The combined effect of these commitments is to de-escalate, and more importantly depoliticize, the ongoing fight between Korea’s KEPCO and Westinghouse over the U.S. intellectual property and componentry in the ROK APR-1400+ reactor.
That battle has frozen U.S.-Korean nuclear cooperation at all levels for years.
The most immediate issue this comity could impact is the currently moribund Saudi Arabian tender for two large nuclear reactors. It was that opportunity that initiated the conflict.

KEPCO was concerned that accepting the Westinghouse position on its content in their reactor would tie its ability to independently compete for the Saudi’s business to the completion of a nuclear cooperation agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. This arrangement had been the basis for U.S.-Korean cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the provision of reactors for the Barakah nuclear power complex.
In the case of Barakah, the U.S. had already completed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the UAE before KEPCO won the reactor competition. However, the prospects for achieving a similar nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia was in question. A critical issue was the U.S. insistence that the Saudi’s accept the Additional Protocol (AP) as a provision of the pact and the Saudi’s unrelenting resistance to it.
The AP was a point of controversy because it allows the International Atomic Energy Agency expanded rights of access to information and locations to ensure there is no nuclear weapons diversion from a peaceful nuclear program. Saudi Arabia did not want to grant that additional intrusive authority to the Agency.
The agreement’s prospects were further clouded by the very real possibility that the Congress would reject it if it were completed and submitted to them for approval, as required by U.S. law. It was an opportunity to demonstrate disapproval of Saudi actions in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and underscore concerns that it could lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
It is not clear that the new Biden-Moon agreements will resurrect the Saudi reactor process any time soon. But it does put Saudi Arabia and other nations on notice that there is now a united front on nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation between two of the largest democratic nation nuclear suppliers.
This could begin to set up a challenging choice for nuclear-interested nations. Select the higher standards and long-term commitments of democratic nation nuclear suppliers or choose Russia and China, which don’t require the same levels of nonproliferation guarantees and provide nuclear technologies on a largely transactional basis.
As the drive for zero-carbon energy accelerates in this and future decades, nuclear power is increasingly on the menu of options for carbon-dependent countries. The large reactor market outside of Russia and China exists in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the U.K. But developing economy nations are more interested in small reactors that are less expensive and more suitable to their needs.
These next-generation technologies will be the next, and perhaps final, battleground for international nuclear market dominance.
Creating a coalition of democratic nation nuclear suppliers that collectively possess an integrated component chain, efficient construction capabilities, and a common view on the value of nonproliferation and security can be a powerful incentive for newcomer nuclear nations. The U.S.-ROK summit agreements are a first step toward that potential partnership.
If skillfully developed, this coordination could stave off China’s and Russia’s control of the global nuclear market in this century. And that would benefit global security.
But the Biden-Moon commitments can’t languish on paper. They need to be realized in real time. The agreement at the summit to resuscitate the High-Level Bilateral Commission, which is the main forum for U.S.-ROK nuclear discussions, should result in its being convened over the Summer to begin mapping out a joint strategy that can be completed by years end.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The White House has released its official U.S. government budget request for FY22. The proposal includes $9.75 billion in credits from 2022 to 2031 for “electricity generation from existing nuclear power facilities,” and allocates $1.85 billion to the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, an “increase of over 23% from FY21 enacted.” Over $1 billion of the aforementioned figure would go towards nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programs, $245 million of which would “support the demonstration of two advanced reactor technologies within the next six years.” The $1.85 billion also includes $145 million for funding the Versatile Test Reactor. 
Nuclear Collaborations
The United States and South Korea (ROK) have agreed to strengthen cooperation in overseas civil nuclear markets. In addition to promoting supply chain coordination, the two countries will encourage non-proliferation by requiring nuclear power plant (NPP) recipients to implement an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol agreement. The U.S. and the ROK will hold a High-Level Bilateral Commission meeting to discuss the aforementioned accords. Regarding further international nuclear cooperation, American and French Energy Ministers have also recently agreed to collaborate on new technologies like next-generation reactors to help achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Japan and the European Union will form a Green Alliance to help “accelerate decarbonization efforts across the two economies.” Priority areas for cooperation include fusion and fission research, as well as “research and training…in nuclear safeguards, security and non-proliferation.”
Japanese corporation IHI will invest $20 million in NuScale Power and become the second Japanese company in the past two months to obtain a stake in the entity. IHI will become a “global manufacturing partner” and “could provide design and manufacturing for steel plate reinforced concrete wall structures.” Regarding other NuScale news, the company has also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Grant County Public Utility District to examine deployment of its small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Central Washington State.
The UK’s Penultimate Power will work with the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to develop a high temperature gas-cooled reactor (EH HTGR) that could be “operational in Britain by 2029 with 20 units following every year from [the] early 2030s.” Penultimate Power has indicated that the first unit of the technology, which is “aimed at industrial clusters,” will cost around £100m, and the organization is hoping its design will be “the first to register with the new [UK advanced nuclear] licensing regime.”
Swedish utility Vattenfall has obtained a 6 percent stake and become a minority shareholder in Estonia’s Fermi Energia, a startup working towards domestic SMR deployment. Vattenfall, which owns 10 reactors in Sweden and Germany, hopes that it will be able to “contribute…[its] know-how and work jointly on feasibility studies about costing, supply chain and capabilities to construct and operate small modular reactor technology.”
The UK’s Springfields Fuels Limited (SFL) has agreed to receive 3 tons of unused uranium research reactor fuel from Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology (IFE). The material will be used to produce new fuel for commercial NPPs after transport begins around 2022.
Nuclear Power Ghana has signed a MoU with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) to help expand public knowledge about nuclear power and help lay the social groundwork for the establishment of a domestic nuclear power program.
Officials from Saudi and Emirati nuclear regulatory agencies have “concluded the first bilateral cooperation initiative in the nuclear regulatory industry.” The two organizations held a one-month series of workshops, where they exchanged information on topics like nuclear regulatory frameworks and international non-proliferation obligations. The meetings generated several recommendations, including the formation of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regulatory working group.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Global First Power’s (GFP) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) has become the first fourth generation MMR design to formally enter the Canadian licensing process. The 15 MWt (around 5 MWe) unit, which GFP hopes will provide “first power” in 2026, is intended to “serve as a model for future SMR deployments.” The plant will be built at the Chalk River Laboratories site.
Moltex Energy’s SSR-W300 technology has become the fifth SMR to complete Phase 1 of the Canadian pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. ” Moltex hopes to deploy its first unit at the Point Lepreau site in New Brunswick by the early 2030s.
Prime Minister Imran Khan helped virtually inaugurate Unit 2 of Pakistan’s Karachi NPP (K-2). The 1100 MW China-supplied reactor (HPR1000), which has a 60-year life expectancy (extendable to 20 more years), was connected to the national grid on March 18. Khan said that the new unit would “almost double” Pakistan’s nuclear power generation.
UK SMR, a Rolls-Royce–led consortium, has renewed calls for around $2.8 billion in UK government funding to help build the first two or three of a planned sixteen SMR plants. The group, which aims to have the first unit ready by the early 2030s, has indicated that it will seek funding from overseas donors if it does not receive necessary government support. The Research & Innovation Agency has said that it is “in discussion” with the consortium on “how work may proceed.”
Trudy Harrison, the Copeland MP and co-chair of the Nuclear Delivery Group, has presented a nuclear roadmap to UK Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan. The group’s plan includes proposals for the development of multiple large-scale nuclear projects and investments in SMRs and advanced modular reactors (AMRs).
Russia’s Atomenergoprom JSC (a subsidiary of Rosatom) is working with the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance and French export credit agency Bpifrance Assurance Export to develop a new funding mechanism for its international NPP construction projects, per the company’s 2020 annual report.
Rosatom’s TVEL Fuel Company has developed a VVER-440 fuel bundle with a higher uranium capacity for Finland’s Loviisa NPP. The new fuel load allows for lower uranium enrichment, decreasing the cost of the nuclear fuel production chain.
An operating license has been granted for Unit 1 at Belarus’ Ostrovets NPP. This news arrives amid delays in EU nuclear safety experts’ planned second peer review visit to the controversial site, which Lithuania recently called for sanctions against and claimed should be seen as a “geopolitical weapon” and possible “blackmailing instrument.”
Ignacio Araluce, the head of Foro Nuclear (Spain’s nuclear industry group), said in the organization’s 2020 annual report that the federal government should work to reduce the “excessive tax burden” on the country’s seven commercial power reactors. Araluce expressed similar sentiments in a February webinar.

China’s Tianwan-6 reactor, an ACPR1000 model, has entered commercial operation. Units 7 and 8 are scheduled to be commissioned in 2026-2027.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Wyoming is slated to house the first Natrium Reactor in a partnership with Bill Gates’ TerraPower, PacifiCorp, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The SMR, which would become the second domestic NPP built in the last twenty years, will replace one of PacifiCorp’s current coal-fired plants. Executives hope to finalize the exact location for the reactor, which is scheduled to begin generating electricity in mid-2028, by the end of this year.
Three Democratic U.S. senators introduced an amendment to the Clean Energy for America Act (a “wide energy tax reform bill”) that would provide a $15/MWh production tax credit through 2030 for existing NPP owners or operators in states with deregulated power markets. The credit would be 80 percent lower for any market revenues above $25/MWh and would “begin to phase down” when greenhouse gas emissions reach 50 percent below 2020 levels. The senators did not ask for a vote on the amendment, and the broader bill passed the Senate Finance Committee later in the day.
Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is set to undergo a planned nine-month decennial overhaul. Experts will replace the core components of the reactor, which is a “centerpiece of the U.S. nuclear energy research infrastructure” and has been through five core overhauls since it began operations in 1967.
The Arizona Corporation Commission has agreed to implement rules that would require utilities to get 100 percent of their energy from carbon-free sources (including nuclear) by the end of 2070, 20 years later than the proposal rejected on May 5. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Iran and the IAEA have agreed to a one-month extension on a February deal mandating that the country hold IAEA surveillance images of its nuclear facilities. This news comes as a confidential IAEA document has revealed that the organization has “not had access to the data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, or had access to the measurement recordings registered by its installed measurement devices” since February 23. The document also notes that Iran has still failed to explain traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites. In addition, a separate quarterly report has indicated that, while in the aftermath of the Natanz explosion, Iran’s quarterly increase in its stock of enriched uranium was the lowest since August 2019, the nation’s current supply is still around 16 times that allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Following the release of a report from the Regulatory Horizons Council (an independent expert committee) recommending that the UK “champion the way for a non-fission nuclear approach” through regulatory action, the UK government has said that it will “launch a consultation on fusion energy regulation” later this year. This news comes a week after the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) revealed that initial tests from its MAST Upgrade experiment showed that the Super-X divertor, an innovative exhaust system, delivered “a tenfold reduction in the excess heat endured by vital [fusion machine] components,” a result that the UKAEA believes is a “‘game-changer’ for fusion energy.”
China’s “artificial sun” project reached a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds in its latest experiment, a new world record. The device, which is more formally known as the experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST), aims to lay the foundation for China to build a fusion station in the future.
A survey by the Board of Audit of Japan has shown that 2.2 percent of the sites cleaned after the 2011 Fukushima disaster have not seen radiation doses below pre-decontamination levels. The Audit Board has asked the Ministry of the Environment to “consider measures to uniformly check the effects of the cleanup work.”
Japan’s industry ministry has announced plans to develop mixed oxide fuel (MOX) reprocessing technology by around the late 2030s. Only four reactors in the country employ MOX fuel.
Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency, has announced that its nuclear-powered “space tug” is set to launch on a fifty-month interplanetary mission in 2030. The technology, which utilizes an energy module (“Zeus”) akin to a mobile NPP, could help shorten trips in space.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator has issued a permit to the SSE Chernobyl NPP for the transfer of “undamaged used nuclear fuel” to the ISF-2 dry storage facility. This news will help advance the Chernobyl decommissioning process, although removal of damaged fuel will require a new permit. Fuel transfers from the ISF-1 wet storage facility to ISF-2 will take place over the next ten years.
A group of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation experts and former government officials has sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserting that government funding of Moltex Energy’s planned CANDU spent nuclear fuel (SNF) reprocessing plant hurts global non-proliferation efforts. The authors note that plutonium recovered by the Moltex reactor would present “high proliferation and environmental risks” and could help other countries justify plutonium production divertible to weapons production. Frank von Hippel, the lead author, said that he hopes the Canadian government commissions “a review of broader implications of Moltex, as well as other companies that are promoting reprocessing, to develop a policy which takes these non-proliferation and environmental considerations into account.”
A fire at South Korea’s Shin-Kori 4 reactor stopped the operation of a turbine. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission will examine the exact cause of the fire, which officials suspect originated from the exciter of a turbine, but no radiation leaks were reported.
A new neutron-gamma detector able to detect small amounts of nuclear materials may help prevent nuclear and radioactive terrorism, per Swedish research recently published in the journal Science Advances. Outside of weapon detection, the technology could also be used to detect leaks from nuclear facilities or natural sources.
EDF is examining corrosion on fuel rods at France’s Chooz and Civaux NPPs. The organization has indicated that it may have to reduce capacity at the sites “by a few percent in the coming weeks or months depending on the outcome of an ongoing investigation.”
Noteworthy Research
A new report from researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finds that deployment of SMRs in the Pacific Northwest could be competitive in a future decarbonized electricity sector if the designs achieve their projected levelized costs of electricity (LCOEs). The scholars evaluated the possible use of two SMR technologies (NuScale’s SMR and GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300) at Energy Northwest’s Hanford site and the current Centralia coal plant site, and also examined NuScale SMR deployment at the Idaho National Laboratory.
A new report commissioned by GE Hitachi assesses socio-economic benefits stemming from the “manufacturing, construction, and deployment” of the organization’s BWRX-300 SMR in Ontario. The report projects that the first unit will generate around CAD2.3 billion in GDP, CAD1.9 billion in labor income, and more than CAD750 million in federal, provincial, and municipal tax revenue from the aforementioned phases (given a 60-year operating period), with each subsequent unit yielding around CAD1.1 billion in GDP and more than CAD300 million in tax revenue. Canada is also expected to gain CAD98 million in GDP and CAD46 million in tax revenue from international installation of individual SMR units.
A new report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) proposes a strategy to help the U.S. combat industrial competition, cybersecurity threats, and trade disputes in global clean energy supply chains. The authors’ recommendations focus on three principles: reshoring, rerouting, and rebalancing. Advanced nuclear power is listed as one of several low-carbon energy technologies that offer “excellent opportunities for leadership and an active innovation space” and are “areas where…[no] competitor has established a lead yet.”
A new report from the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation for Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST) asserts that only nuclear energy and hydropower are both “controllable and carbon-free” vehicles for low-carbon hydrogen production by electrolysis. The OPECST believes that global production of nuclear–derived low-carbon hydrogen would require 400 GW of new nuclear capacity, but states that this is an “impossible prospect” given decreasing shares of nuclear power in national energy mixes.
The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) has published a new recommendation paper concerning ‘Advanced Nuclear and Emerging Technologies: Implications for Nuclear Safeguards and Export Controls.’ “[R]ecommended actions and initiatives” encourage the development of regulatory guidance in a “common language” and compel the nuclear export control and safeguards communities to engage in further cooperation and partner with industry and R&D institutions. The participants also indicated that future work on issues such as a Code of Conduct for advanced manufacturing, updates to Annex II of the IAEA Additional Protocol, research on advanced nuclear developer business practices, and the popularization of “safeguards-by-design” and “non-proliferation by design” could be useful.
The Nuclear Conversation
BBC News, June 3

Nuclear Engineering International, June 3

Barclays, June 2
The Korea Times, June 2
World Nuclear News, June 2
The Taipei Times, May 31
France 24, May 28
New Europe, May 28
American Nuclear Society, May 28
The New Nuclear Watch Institute, May 27
World Nuclear News, May 27
World Nuclear Association, May 27
Stimson Center, May 27 
Downtown newsmagazine, May 26
The Financial Times, May 26
SpaceNews, May 25
Canada’s National Observer, May 25
Issues in Science and Technology, May 24
The New Nuclear Watch Institute, May 24
NS Energy, May 24
Business Insider, May 22
American Nuclear Society, May 21
ScienceDaily, May 21
World Nuclear News, May 21
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 20
POWER Magazine, May 20 
Al Jazeera, May 19
BBC News, May 18
Nuclear Engineering International, May 18
Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, May 17
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