In this issue, we highlight the need to develop a new, multi-disciplinary and collaborative nuclear security coalition in preparation for the future deployment of non-traditional nuclear reactors. We also showcase a new report by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group that evaluates the U.S.’s standing in the global nuclear energy market and offers several recommendations for increased influence over global nuclear security. Finally, we bring attention to a Council of Strategic Risks briefer that analyzes the future of nuclear energy in Turkey and the security ramifications of its growing nuclear regime. 
Building a Better Nuclear Security Coalition Post-COVID19
The devastating blow from the novel coronavirus has upended many assumptions about global safety, security and preparedness. That disruption opens the opportunity for rethinking how the international community should plan for the mounting transnational challenges of the future, including ensuring global nuclear security.

A new report from the U.S. energy department is remarkably frank in its assessment that “America is losing its competitive global position as the world leader in nuclear energy and technology to state-owned enterprises.” The main challenges are coming from Russia and China, with Russia astonishingly having morphed from Chernobyl to the global nuclear contractor of choice in a few decades. 

The assessment of the Nuclear Fuels Working Group (NFWG) has several key recommendations. But two that stand out are the need to take a “whole-of-government” approach to supporting civil nuclear exports and strengthening U.S. leadership on next-gen nuclear technologies. These issues are intimately related, because it is unlikely that the U.S. can lead on next-gen reactors without a modernization of its past export approaches. 

The offerings of the state-financed nuclear enterprises of other nations are very enticing, particularly to newcomer nuclear nations, because they provide a one-stop shop for the financing, construction, operation, and waste solutions that are at the heart of nuclear power’s enduring challenges.

Equally important, and perhaps surprisingly, the DoE strategy document makes clear its view that the future of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation depends on, “a robust civil nuclear energy industry and technology leadership position” for the United States. In fact, the document asserts that the U.S. will “move into markets” now dominated by Russia and China and bring with it “strong non-proliferation standards.” 

This is a dramatic shift in emphasis on the nuclear energy export issue. While civil nuclear power and non-proliferation always have been inextricably linked, past generations of nuclear power export have relegated nuclear security issues to a separate, and some might suggest, second tier policy concern. This has raised hackles with nuclear non-proliferation professionals and helped to stoke animosity between that community and the nuclear industry.

Now the opportunity is being offered to bridge that nuclear security-commerce gap. But it is unclear if past combatants are willing to accept the offer to work together. The Global Nexus Initiative (GNI) pioneered this nuclear power-global security bridge building beginning five years ago. Its record of success underscores that there are significant areas of common concern and the need for cooperation between the nuclear industry and nuclear security communities. But there is a residual reluctance to embrace the value, and necessity, of this collaboration.

The problem with rejecting the opportunity to collectively build a strong nuclear security and non-proliferation system for next-gen reactors is that it is constructed on the outdated premise that the U.S. controls future nuclear developments. It does not, as the NFWG and reams of additional evidence have made clear.

The current gigawatt-sized nuclear market is largely Russia’s. The next-gen market could be theirs and China’s if there is not a strong U.S. counterweight. If the authoritarian governments corner this market, then the influence of the American and allied nation nuclear security policy community will be significantly diminished. And the balance of power inside international institutions like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could shift toward undemocratic nations for the long-term.

So, in thinking about how the world is really evolving, rather than holding-on to how it once was organized, nuclear stakeholders need to come to grips with what really needs to be achieved over the long term and how that can best be done.

It is highly unlikely that the good governance nuclear policy community is going to stop Russia or China from developing and deploying small reactors, including providing them to small electrical grid nations in dangerous neighborhoods, without a competing product, effective marketing, and stronger security standards from America and its allies. You cannot fight something with nothing and expect to win.

Also, against the backdrop of the most polarized U.S. political environment in memory, next-gen reactors have generated bipartisan support. So, it is going to be difficult to hammer a wedge between Democrats and Republicans on the issue to gain political leverage.

Further, the need for carbon-free energy is not going to diminish with time and next-gen technologies can make contributions to that goal, particularly in smaller economy nations or if deployed at large scale. The impact of climate change on agriculture and water availability is going to create new international conflicts and the Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to small reactors to power their future operations, creating additional nuclear policy complexities.

This is not the Cold War landscape or the post-9/11 environment. It is a new World in Disarray , and COVID-19 has proven that we are largely unprepared for it. While some things like novel coronaviruses can unexpectedly emerge, the future trajectory of nuclear energy is very clear. It includes small reactors, novel fuel cycles, and non-traditional deployment schemes for which current international safeguards and security guidelines are not well suited.

So, we can be caught unprepared for what we know is coming by doubling down on old battle lines or we can seize the opportunity to work together. The best bet is to build a new, multi-disciplinary, collaborative nuclear security coalition that is focused on creating the secure nuclear future that will address the real needs created by a challenging and increasingly unfriendly international environment. 

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security
New Report Spotlight

A recent report by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, titled ‘Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage: A Strategy to Assure U.S. National Security’ , analyzes the strategic importance of nuclear energy exports and the U.S.’s role in maintaining its nuclear national security advantages. The comprehensive report outlines strategies at the Executive, Congressional and regulatory levels to enhance the role of nuclear power, both as part of the U.S.’s domestic and foreign policy.
Nuclear Collaborations
A recent agreement between Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the UK’s Moltex Energy will facilitate research into advanced fuel development for Moltex’s 300MWe Stable Salt Reactor. Under the project, both entities will focus on the recycling of nuclear waste and its use as a potential fuel for Moltex’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR), while the University of New Brunswick will house and support the project at a new full-scale facility. 

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has partnered with the AFL-CIO to preserve nuclear energy jobs as the U.S. implements clean energy strategies into the future. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared his support for the nuclear energy sector and its vast workforce, reiterating, “The best way to move forward on climate is for workers and unions to be at the forefront of developing policies that are based on sound science... and actively promote the interest of workers."

Advanced nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge has signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) for research and development into new nuclear technologies. Focussed principally on the irradiation of metallic fuel materials as part of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program, the project will cost an estimated $845,000, which will be mostly paid by the DoE.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Moscow has been given the all clear by Russian regulators to build new infrastructure for its floating NPPs. As Russia seeks to expand its fleet of floating plants, the approval allows developers to include new engineering buildings alongside reactors, as well as provide updated physical protections around their perimeters. The move comes only days after Russia’s Atomflot announced plans to build its most powerful nuclear icebreaker yet. 

Civil nuclear power was high on the agenda last week as Russian president Putin and Turkish president Ergogan vowed increased nuclear cooperation during a lengthy phone call. The talks between the leaders come as recent developments have seen Russia take a leading role in financing and building Turkey’s upcoming Akkuyu nuclear power plant (NPP).

Belarus’s Ostrovets NPP is set to begin operation later this year, despite obstacles associated with the Coronavirus outbreak. The plant, currently being constructed by Russia’s Rosatom, will house two Generation 3+ VVER-1200 reactor units. 

Esa Hyv ä rinen, the newly-instated president of Finnish nuclear group Foratom, has emphasized the need for European nations to rely on nuclear power as part of their climate solutions. "It is important to ensure that nuclear energy is treated on an equal footing with other low-carbon energy sources,” he said in a recent interview while underscoring the need for a bloc approach by the European Union. 

Rolls-Royce has expanded its reach into the nuclear energy sector after winning a “significant” (but unspecified) contract to work on upgrades at Fortum’s Loviisa NPP. The British-based company will perform a partial renewal of the plant’s Engineered Safety Features Actuation System (ESFAS) and digitize existing analogue safety systems. 

Chinese officials have stressed that the Coronavirus outbreak will not impact the construction of China’s fifteen unfinished nuclear reactor units. Tang Bo, director of China’s Nuclear Safety Department, added that existing reactors in operation will also remain unaffected as the country seeks to increase its total nuclear capacity to 58GW by year's end. 

The Argentinian government has announced plans to revive its Carem-25 SMR project after work was suspended due to a financial dispute. Nucleoeléctria Argentina, a majority state owned corporation, will also resume the operation of three Pressurized Water Reactors, which generate over 5 percent of the country’s electricity. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Batelle Energy Alliance, a grouping of advanced energy corporations, has made a call for potential industry partners as it seeks to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear construction technologies. The Alliance is focussed on transforming the nuclear energy building process by making reactors cheaper and more commercially viable, as well as aiding in their deployment. 

In light of the Pentagon’s recent push for the construction of a SMR prototype, several officials have expressed concern about the general public suspicion towards nuclear energy.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The SMR Regulators’ Forum has released a new set of tailor-made safety recommendations for the deployment of SMRs, designed to guide national authorities in the regulation of next-generation small reactors.
Noteworthy Research
The Council on Strategic Risks has released a briefer, ‘Nuclear Energy Developments, Climate Change and Security in Turkey’ , detailing the geopolitical significance of Turkey’s nuclear energy policy, as well as the likely security ramifications of its growing civil nuclear regime. The largest concerns for the future of nuclear power in Turkey, the paper maintains, is the lack of regulatory oversight and the potentially injurious influence of Russian nuclear suppliers.
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.
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