In this week’s issue we add a new feature on the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the civil nuclear energy sector and global security. We also spotlight a new Global America Business Institute (GABI) article that argues for the United States and its allies to take control of the nuclear export market through cooperation in nuclear energy development. Finally, we cover the latest international security and civil nuclear energy developments.
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 Nuclear Fallout from Russia's Ukraine Invasion
The massive humanitarian crisis created by Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine may continue to radiate out unpredictably as Russia’s central role in global nuclear security and energy becomes a major casualty of the war.
So far, there are two clear categories of Russian nuclear transgression.
The nuclear weapons saber rattling in the conflict from the Russian president and his closest advisors is indefensible and extremely dangerous. It is forcing the U.S. and allies to make contingency plans for how to respond to this scenario. Simulations show how quickly any nuclear weapon use can escalate to all out nuclear war. 
Also, the unprecedented attacks by Russian forces against civil nuclear sites have significantly undermined Russia’s global nuclear security credentials and authority. Russian forces have attacked an operating nuclear power complex, the highly radioactive Chernobyl reactor site, and the Kharkiv nuclear research center.
The fallout from these actions has significant implications in five key areas.
Nuclear Power Expansion
The recoil against the Russian invasion and the sanctions that have been imposed on its economic life blood in the energy sector are causing its major clients in Europe to rapidly pull back from their dependence on its oil, gas, and coal.
It is leading countries like Belgium and even Germany to rethink their previously planned nuclear power phaseouts. And it is prodding other European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, and the U.K. to accelerate their nuclear power deployment plans. In Asia, both Japan and South Korea are reversing their positions on nuclear expansion, and China has announced plans for a 150 reactor build-out.
The combination of the growing demand for reliable carbon-free energy, a decreased dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels, and the need for energy security is enhancing the appeal of nuclear power. Nuclear energy had already received a boost out of the 2021 COP 26 climate meeting in Glasgow as countries grappled with how to meet their carbon reduction goals. But its salience in the climate debate continues to expand and even silicon valley entrepreneurs see a future for it.
This expansion will shake up the current international system, in part, by increasing the pressure to ensure that the technologies are operated in a safe and secure manner. This is especially important in countries new to nuclear power. That will require adaptation, including more support from the International Atomic Energy Agency and deeper engagement from nuclear exporting nations and companies.
Nuclear Export
Russia is the world’s primary nuclear power exporter but that status may not last. Its reputation as a responsible nuclear supplier will be undermined by its transgressions in Ukraine. And its supply chain for the VVER reactors it sells abroad runs through Ukraine, including critical reactor castings.
Existing clients for Russian VVER’s include Turkey, Bangladesh, Belarus, India, Iran, China, and Egypt. Russia also is building several reactors on its territory. It is likely that financial sanctions and supply chain choke points will impact these projects.
Russia’s target markets in European Union countries including Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic withered away before the Ukraine invasion and a collaboration with Finland is now under review.
Democratic nation nuclear suppliers have not been able to compete with Russia in the export market, in part, because of the generous state financing Russia was able to offer to clients. That may now be ending as energy revenues and access to international capital shrivel. But to fill the opportunity void, democratic nations will need to quickly organize themselves to work in concert. If not, China may replace Russia, which puts another authoritarian nation in control of this century’s global nuclear market. That outcome must be avoided.
Nuclear Fuel Supply
Russia has the largest uranium enrichment capacity in the world and provides about 35% of the global requirement. Many reactors in many countries run on Russian-supplied nuclear fuel, including in the U.S. and Europe.
Despite the decision of the U.S. to end the importation of Russia’s fossil fuels, there has been no move by the U.S. or other nations to ban the import of Russian uranium or fuel in response to the Ukraine invasion. However, some support for a ban is emerging in the Congress, despite cautions. There is not any panic over the supply of fuel for existing reactors at the moment.
However, there is growing alarm about the ability to supply a higher-enriched fuel (HALEU) for the next generation of smaller, advanced reactors. These reactors are still in development and the U.S., at present, does not produce this fuel. But Russia does. The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that it will need 40 metric tons of the fuel by 2030. A small pilot project to produce 5 metric tons of HALEU in the U.S. is underway but Russia is still the primary source of the fuel. Other technical options are available to create the HALEU fuel, but they are complex and unlikely to meet the target amount in time.
Should the U.S. decide to sanction the Russian civil nuclear sector and its primary company Rosatom, it will have significant impacts on U.S. nuclear operations and reactor development. It may require a significant government and private sector investment in the expansion of the uranium enrichment capability in the U.S. and Europe.
Reactor Component Testing
Uranium enrichment is not the only area where the U.S. and its allies are dependent on Russia. It operates a fast reactor that is used to test fuel, components, and sensors for the next generation of smaller nuclear reactors. The U.S. likely does not have any experiments in that reactor now, but the next-generation developers are considering it for future tests. One reason is that a similar test reactor proposed by the U.S. energy department has been denied funding by the Congress and no substitute exists.
If the U.S. wants to wean its nuclear industry and that of its allies off of dependence on Russian test facilities it will have to reconsider this funding decision. It certainly is not an inexpensive facility. But if reshoring critical industrial capability is a response to the Ukraine invasion, this facility will be a necessary element of civil nuclear expansion.
Nuclear Proliferation and Arms Control
The invasion of Ukraine and the Russian threat of nuclear weapons use on the battlefield has pushed U.S.-Russian relations to the breaking point. This has eliminated any chance for near-term cooperation on the reduction of nuclear weapons and the enhancement of global nuclear security. It also poses a deep threat to the viability of the global nuclear governance architecture of which Russia and the U.S. have been central designers. Proposals have been put forth to try to salvage the situation from deteriorating further.
But an extremely challenging and lingering question will be whether the Russian invasion has demonstrated that the possession of nuclear arms is necessary protection from foreign nation attack and regime change. The jury is out on this question at the moment. But there is evidence that nations may absorb that lesson, particularly those in dangerous neighborhoods.
A breakout of nuclear weapons states would be extremely destabilizing and would gut the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But no nation will willingly suffer the inhuman destruction Russia is raining upon Ukraine. The global nuclear non-proliferation community will need to come to grips with these new realities and recognize that a suite of new solutions is desperately needed for this coldly realpolitik world.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

A new article by PGS President, Ken Luongo, for the Global America Business Institute (GABI) discusses how Russia’s unprecedented attack on Ukraine’s nuclear facilities could lead to a collapse of Russian nuclear export dominance. The article underscores the need for the United States and its allies to quickly enhance their collaboration on nuclear technology exports to take advantage of this opportunity and effectively safeguard the nuclear export market in this century.
Nuclear Collaborations
The Philippines and the United States have signed a Memorandum of Understanding seeking to boost cooperation on developing the Philippines’ nuclear energy program. The Philippines’ Department of Energy will work with the United States to improve knowledge and understanding on nuclear energy through technical assistance and improving the Philippines’ capacity for nuclear infrastructure.
Ten countries in the Middle East are looking to increase nuclear cooperation in science and medicine under the Cooperative Agreement for Arab States in Asia for Research, Development, and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (ARASIA). Five memoranda of understanding were signed this month designating specialized institutions as ARASIA Regional Resource Centres. These centres will facilitate the provision of expert support, access to research data, the organization of workshops and training courses, and the exchange of expertise.
The United States and Ghana have announced their partnership to support Ghana’s adoption of small modular reactor technology under the United States’ Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program. Japan will also build on its existing partnership with Ghana to advance Ghana’s civil nuclear power aspirations.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor started test production this March. Originally due to open in 2009, the nuclear reactor is Finland’s first in over four decades. Olkiluoto will deliver additional power to Finland’s national grid and is expected to reduce the need for electricity imports from countries like Russia. Finland is the only country in Scandinavia with a large power deficit.
The Czech Industry Ministry announced it will launch a tender for a new unit at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. The new unit is meant to replace facilities set to retire in the coming decades. Last year, the government sent security questionnaires to the U.S. company Westinghouse, Electricite de France (EDF), and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP). Czech authorities dropped Russia from a $6.55 billion tender last April.
With the recent elections in South Korea, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has promised to revive the country’s nuclear power sector and boost investment in the industry. Yoon pledged to lift nuclear power’s contribution to 30% of the nation’s electricity by restarting construction on reactors and extending other reactors’ lives.
Bulgaria’s Ministry of Energy has started a study for the rapid construction of a new nuclear reactor most likely to be located in Kozloduy. If the project starts this year, the reactor will begin operating between 2028 and 2030. Bulgaria has two unused Russian nuclear reactors, but it is unclear whether it will be able to use them because that would require inviting Russia’s Rosatom to participate in the projects during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia recently established a nuclear energy holding company that will aid in the development of nuclear facilities in the country. In addition to kickstarting nuclear facilities for producing energy, the holding company will also be used to participate in nuclear economic projects and develop local talent in the field of atomic energy.
For the first time since 2000, the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China reported zero new lending for foreign power projects in 2021. It is the fifth year in a row that these banks have reduced lending to overseas energy projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s leadership has increasingly pledged to scale back funding of fossil fuel projects and support developing countries in renewable and low-carbon development.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the United Kingdom aims to generate 25% of its electricity from nuclear power. Johnson met with the executives from major nuclear utilities and technology companies such as Rolls-Royce, France’s EDF, and Westinghouse and Bechtel to discuss ways of helping to speed up the development of new nuclear power stations. Scrutiny of the British government’s energy policies has increased in recent months with increases in fossil fuel prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United Arab Emirates’ announced the start of commercial operation for the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant (Barakah-2). Together with Barakah-1, the output from both units means that nuclear energy is now supplying 2,800 megawatts to the UAE’s grid and a big step for the country as it continues with the rapid decarbonization of its power sector. The Barakah reactors are being built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The United States Department of Energy awarded $36 million for 11 projects seeking to address waste coming from a new generation of nuclear reactors. TerraPower, Oklo Inc., and the Argonne and Idaho national laboratories are among the recipients and will work to commercialize a fuel recycling industry. The Biden administration has sought to spur deployment of these nuclear reactors to supplement renewable power sources as states strive to cut emissions contributing to climate change.
A measure to clarify state and federal regulatory roles regarding TerraPower’s planned Natrium nuclear power plant in Wyoming passed a Senate committee. Two amendments clarified reporting and public disclosure requirements, while a third addressed technical issues brought by the Wyoming Public Service Commission. However, members of the public have highlighted several unresolved issues with the bill, such as the fact that the only current fuel supplier for the Natrium plant is in Russia.
According to Dow Inc. CEO Jim Fitterling, the corporation is considering adding nuclear power systems at two production sites in order to reduce pollution. However, he declined to identify the sites under construction for nuclear power systems. Dow is considering several ways to reduce pollution from its plants around the world.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
According to the Ukrainian government, Russian forces destroyed a laboratory near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was used to monitor radioactive waste. The government also reported that samples of radionuclides had been removed from the lab. This is just the latest concerning development since Russia seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, triggering fears that safety standards inside the exclusion zone could be compromised.
Ukrainian authorities have recently accused Russian troops of attacking the Zaporizhizhia nuclear plant. After allegations that Rosatom officials were present at the site when the explosives went off, Ukraine went on to accuse the Russian state-owned company of violating international rules and requirements for nuclear and radiation safety. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been under Russian control since March 4.
In recent weeks, some of Silicon Valley’s most famous entrepreneurs have called for the further adoption of nuclear power as a solution to cutting carbon emissions and weaning off of Russian energy. Last year, investors supplied a record $3.4 billion into nuclear fission start-up companies, more than in every year over the past decade combined. Some experts believe the combination of technological advances and a new urgency around replacing fossil fuels could be a new catalyst for the U.S. nuclear sector and those abroad.
Noteworthy Research
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Energy Monitor has published a research article on the danger that Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics poses to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and nuclear reactors. The report found that 48% of organizations in Ukraine’s energy sector do not deploy security automation, thus leaving them vulnerable to a Russian attack. Additionally, the article highlights the threat of Russian forces fighting in the vicinity of Ukrainian nuclear facilities.
As several countries like the United States consider placing sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry, the Russian-based PIR Center came out with a report “Nuclear Sanctions: Overview and Risks for the Nuclear Industry”. This report analyzes the competitive strategies of Russia’s rivals in the nuclear fields and possible counteraction options for Russian policymakers. The report will also document the impact that U.S.-led sanctions are likely to have on Russia’s nuclear industry. Some U.S. experts have also cautioned against imposing blanket sanctions on Rosatom and Russian civil nuclear energy trade.
The Nuclear Conversation
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 23
Defense One, March 23
Foreign Policy, March 21
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 17
National Interest, March 17
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 17
Axios, March 15
Council on Foreign Relations, March 15
The Daily Beast, March 13
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 11
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 10
The Global Times, March 10
The Wall Street Journal, March 10
POWER Magazine, March 10
Neutron Bytes, March 10
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