In this week’s issue, we discuss how the United States and South Korea are expanding their civil nuclear cooperation. We also spotlight the United Kingdom’s £120 million fund to support the construction of new nuclear power plants. Finally, we highlight nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments.
Revitalizing the U.S.-South Korea Nuclear Relationship
The first summit between South Korea’s new President, Suk-yeol Yoon, and U.S. President, Joe Biden, is reported to feature new agreements on nuclear energy collaboration as part of an expansion of high-technology cooperation. The question is whether these new nuclear commitments will yield more than a passing press release.
It has been a year since Biden and Korea’s previous President, Jae-in Moon, met in Washington and agreed to expand their nation’s civil nuclear cooperation.
In a joint statement from that summit, the countries committed to “develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects.” A summit fact sheet committed the leaders to “promote coordination in the supply chain” to support collaboration in overseas nuclear markets. South Korea also agreed 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.”
Since that event, little progress has been made on any of these commitments and old problems that have plagued the U.S.-Korea civil nuclear relationship remain unresolved.
The Biden-Yoon summit may codify bilateral collaboration on small modular reactors, but that is low hanging fruit. Major Korean companies, including Samsung and Doosan, have already signed agreements to work with America’s NuScale to build small modular reactors (SMRs). And Korea’s SK Inc. has signed an agreement with TerraPower.
The presidents also may agree to resurrect the High-Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC), a consultative group that has been moribund as a result of a festering intellectual property dispute between two nuclear companies, Westinghouse and KEPCO, that dates back to the middle of the Trump administration. But even when the HLBC was operational, its results were meager.
What could change the calculus for both countries are two key issues – the rising importance of nuclear power for carbon reduction and energy security and Russia’s crippling of its nuclear export preeminence as a result of its disastrous invasion of Ukraine. These are major changes in the international environment, and they create new opportunities for serious collaboration.
If the U.S. and Korea are going to reboot their nuclear energy relationship, they will need to move beyond the summit rhetoric and take specific and difficult actions in three vital areas.
First, in the area of civil nuclear cooperation, the essential objective is to resolve the Westinghouse-KEPCO dispute. Numerous discussions have occurred at working levels without result. Moon did not want to get involved in the fight. Yoon can’t continue that vacillation. Without resolution of this issue, U.S.-Korea collaboration on large reactor projects won’t happen and suspended technical-level engagement won’t resume.
The revival of the HLBC also is necessary, but so is the expansion of its remit. The original forum was designed for a different era. At the very least, it needs to include two additional tracks. One focusing on nuclear investment to mobilize capital on the scale required to achieve the nuclear growth goals of both nations. The second tasking non-governmental experts to generate new ideas and analyses for government consideration.
Second, if the U.S. and Korea prove themselves capable of rapidly removing the self-inflicted roadblocks to their nuclear collaboration, then they may be ready to respond to the opportunities arising in international nuclear exports and geopolitics.
While Russia may remain a force in international nuclear commerce, its days as the global leader are over – for now. The U.S. and Korea should have two overriding goals in this new environment - position themselves as reliable nuclear exporters that support the highest levels of nuclear governance and prevent China from filling the gap left by Russia’s nuclear export implosion.
To achieve these goals, they should take several actions this year. First, convene commercial and government officials to identify the opportunities for bilateral nuclear export and collaboration in third countries. This discussion should target opportunities, assess supply chain issues, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each country in nuclear export. Second, identify how to create collaborative financing for third country reactor exports and equitable mechanisms for profit sharing. Third, identify the research and test capabilities required to support next-generation advanced nuclear power technologies that can replace facilities in Russia or China.
Third, implementing the commitment to cooperate on nuclear export requires both nations to remain at the pinnacle of international nuclear governance for existing and future technologies. Effective nuclear nonproliferation and security norms are essential international guardrails for the civil use of nuclear energy.
The most challenging task for the two nations will be identifying the mechanisms by which the Additional Protocol will be implemented in joint projects in third countries. Moon’s commitment to the AP has not been popular in South Korea because of concerns about its impact on Korea’s reactor competitiveness. It is an important issue that will test the young Yoon administration.
Easier collaborations can occur in two other areas. One is cooperation on the “By Design” process of incorporating safeguards and security improvements for novel fuel cycle advanced reactors. The second is preparing new nuclear nations for the deployment of reactor technologies. Many potential purchasers of smaller reactors require a robust support system to ensure that the technologies can be safely and security operated. The reactor exporters may need to supplement IAEA activities.
The international political and energy environment has changed substantially and quickly over the past year. The Yoon-Biden summit is an opportunity to prove that revitalized U.S.-Korea civil nuclear cooperation is an imperative for both nations. But, realizing that commitment will require much more than summit statements.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

To support its commitment to the development of new nuclear energy projects, the British government has launched the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund (FNEF). The FNEF will provide targeted and competitively allocated grants which will help nuclear construction projects attract the necessary private investment. The FNEF is a new step towards the U.K. government’s objective of deploying 8 new reactors as part of the British Energy Security Strategy released in April. Under the new plan, nuclear power will provide 25% of the country’s electrical power in three decades.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grosso announced that the agency plans to send its nuclear safety, security, and safeguards mission to Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the coming weeks. On-the-ground assistance will concentrate on radiation protection, safety of waste management, and nuclear security. Russian forces had previously occupied the Chernobyl plant for five weeks until their withdrawal in late March.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with senior Russian officials, including Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev, in Istanbul. The IAEA said that Grossi was continuing discussions on ensuring the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine that is still under Russian control and beyond the oversight of Ukraine’s national regulator. Grossi stated that the IAEA needs to continue inspections at Zaporizhzhia related to the agency’s safeguards obligations and the safety and security of the plant[KL1] [KPO2] .
Ukraine’s Energoatom CEO recently stated that construction work on two new Westinghouse AP1000 units at the Khmelnitskyi nuclear power plant will begin as soon as the war is over. Additionally, Ukraine plans to construct three additional Westinghouse units at other existing nuclear plants.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has suspended Russia from its Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). The decision to suspend Russia’s membership was made by the OECD’s ruling body and comes along with the termination of Russia’s broader OECD membership application. The NEA is an intergovernmental organization that facilitates the sharing of best practices and standards between countries that use civilian nuclear power.
After Finland terminated a contract for a Russian-built nuclear power plant, the Finnish unit of Rosatom said it will demand compensation from Finnish consortium Fennovaima for unlawful termination of the contract. Rosatom stated that Fennovaima’s decision was “non-market and politically motivated”. Fennovaima previously scrapped the contract due to significant delays, an inability to deliver the project, and risks related to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Finland has applied for membership in NATO.
Nuclear Collaborations
South Korea’s SK Inc. announced that it signed an agreement with the American company TerraPower to tap opportunities in connection with small modular reactors. The statement has not disclosed any investment details thus far. SK Inc. is the holding company of South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate SK Group.
The IAEA is hosting the Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP) workshop in Vienna to help enhance the national regulatory infrastructure of fourteen countries from the Caribbean region. Caribbean government officials had the opportunity to hold bilateral sessions with IAEA experts to assess their needs pertaining to radiation safety and the security of radioactive material.
South Korea’s Samsung S&T and NuScale Power have agreed to expand their partnership in the global market of small modular reactors (SMRs). The two companies met to discuss their collaboration for joint global SMR market development, and they agreed to share technologies and capabilities by exchanging engineers. Samsung C&T also agreed to leverage its experiences of building and operating nuclear power plants in South Korea to actively engage in NuScale’s ongoing SMR projects in Eastern Europe.
British nuclear services company Cavendish Nuclear signed a memorandum of understanding with X-energy to act as its deployment partner for High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) in the United Kingdom. In 2021, the British energy minister announced that HTGRs had been selected as the preferred advanced reactor technology for the Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development & Demonstration Programme. X-energy’s Xe-100 is a Generation IV advanced reactor design that will operate as a standard 320 MWe four-pack power plant.
French power group Électricité de France (EDF) hopes to seal a deal to equip six next-generation EPR nuclear reactors in India in the coming months. The report emerged after French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met to discuss bilateral cooperation. Last year, EDF made a binding offer to help build six third generation EPR nuclear reactors at India’s Jaitapur site.
Despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, Hungary and Rosatom are pushing ahead with Hungary’s Paks II nuclear plant project. Rosatom and Hungary discussed current issues relating to constructing the power plant, paying attention to fulfilling the key activities of the roadmap for 2022-2023. Even though Hungary is a member of the European Union, nuclear energy is currently not subject to European Union sanctions, and Hungary hopes that completing the Russian-built power plant will increase domestic energy production.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
South Korean President Yoon Seuk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Seoul for a summit meeting. The two leaders are expected to pronounce their strengthened alliance on a number of next-generation nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors. Multiple sources also said officials in Seoul and Washington are in the final phase of negotiations to include technology cooperation on SMRs and the resumption of the High-Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) in their summit declaration. 
France’s nuclear regulator ASN stated that fixing corrosion problems at some of EDF’s nuclear reactors will require a large-scale plan that would take several years. EDF is facing delays and budget overruns on new nuclear plants in France and abroad, and corrosion problems have affected some of its aging reactors. While EDF has checked 35 weldings for corrosion and look to examine 105 more by the end of June, the cause of the problem is still unknown.
Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has started reviewing Posiva Oy’s operating license application for the world’s first used fuel disposal facility after concluding the company has provided sufficient material. The operating license is for a used fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility currently under construction at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant. The repository is expected to begin operation in the mid-2020s, and Posiva is applying for an operating license for the period from March 2024 to 2070.
Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved plans by the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant to release its treated radioactive wastewater into the sea next year. The original plan was submitted last year based on the government’s decision to release the wastewater as a necessary step for the ongoing cleanup and decommissioning of the Fukushima facility. Under the plan, TEPCO will transport water that has been treated through a pipeline to a coastal facility before being diluted with seawater.
Although Turkey and Russia are currently working on the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine threaten to delay the construction of the plant. The Akkuyu plant is due to start production next year, with Russia’s Sberbank providing loans worth $1.2 billion since 2019. However, Sberbank is under sanction, and possible sanctions against Rosatom could affect the flow of equipment to Akkuyu.
The IAEA has completed its ARTEMIS review of Denmark’s radioactive waste management program. The Danish government requested the review of its program to fulfill an EU obligation that requires an independent review of member states’ national radioactive waste management programs. Denmark manages radioactive waste and spent fuel from the ongoing decommissioning of six nuclear facilities at the Risø National Laboratory.
Germany will vote against the European Commission’s taxonomy proposal that classes nuclear energy as green but won’t file a lawsuit against it. France has been the primary backer for this classification as Europe looks to sever its dependence on Russian energy. So far, only a minority of countries have been critical of the proposal, including Germany, Austria, Spain, and Luxembourg.
The Jordan Uranium Mining Company (JUMCO) announced the production of 20 kg of yellowcake from uranium ore at a newly operational processing facility. JUMCO is the commercial arm of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission that was established in 2013 to carry out radioactive element exploration and development in the country. Its exploration has been focused on the Central Jordan Uranium Project, where a pilot plant began operation in early 2021.
Belarus’s Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk said that work on the second unit of the country’s Ostrovets nuclear power plant is proceeding on schedule and that the feasibility study of building a second nuclear plant in the country is ongoing. The first unit of the Ostrovets plant connected to the national grid in 2020, and both units at the reactor will be Russian VVER-1200 models. Once both units are commissioned, the plant is expected to produce about 18.5 TWh per year.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has awarded contracts for the construction of nuclear islands and installation engineering for planned reactors at the Sanmen and Haiyang nuclear power plants. China Nuclear Industry Fifth Construction Company (CNI5) will undertake the nuclear island installation work at all four units, with two separate companies conducting the civil construction of the nuclear islands. China’s State Council approved the construction of the third and fourth units at the Sanmen and Haiyang plants, with approval also given for the construction of the fifth and sixth units at the Lufeng nuclear power plant.
Kazakhstan is restarting operations of the IVG.1M research reactor following the completion of a project to convert to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. The country’s National Nuclear Center commenced the process to convert the reactor from using HEU fuel in 2010, and Kazakhstan signed a joint statement with the United States committing to converting the IVG-1M reactor with the United States in 2020. Research in the peaceful use of nuclear energy will officially resume in 2023.
South Korea seeks to resume construction of two nuclear reactors in the coastal county of Uljin. South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk-Yeol’s transition team proposed restarting the construction of the Shin-Hanul reactors 3 and 4 units by the first half of 2025. During his election campaign, Yoon stated he would scrap the previous administration’s nuclear phase-out drive.
Uganda has acquired land for the construction of a nuclear power plant after the IAEA found that the nation is ready for building the plant. In 2017, Uganda planned to build a 2,000 MW nuclear plant by 2032. Uganda plans to boost electricity generation capacity in the medium term almost twelvefold to 17,000 MW.
The engineering company Tracetebel signed an agreement to provide engineering services to France’s EDF for the deployment of its Nuward small modular reactor design. The contract with EDF will include conceptual design studies for parts of the plant’s conventional island, water intake and servicing system, and the 3D modeling of buildings for these systems. Nuward is a Generation III pressurized water reactor combining two 170 MW reactors, and Tractebel said the basic design completion stage for the SMR plant is expected to start in 2023.
The IAEA has launched an initiative to develop a roadmap for the commercial deployment of hydrogen production using nuclear energy. The initiative will culminate in a roadmap guiding document to provide countries with a tool for evaluating, planning, and strategizing the development of nuclear hydrogen plans. Some 28 countries and four international organizations joined the IAEA roadmap initiative at its launch in Vienna last month, including demonstrations of hydrogen production using existing reactors as well as plans using advanced reactors to increase efficiency.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The U.S. Department of Energy released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the construction of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR). The EIS analyzes options for reactor fuel production and evaluates construction and operation of the VTR at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The proposed VTR will be a sodium-cooled fast-neutron-spectrum test reactor, and the United States has not had a fast-reactor-based neutron source and testing capability for nearly three decades.
The Department of Energy’s recently published funding request for its Office of Environmental Management included $462.8 million for the Department’s Carlsbad Field Office. Federal managers are hoping for a $42.7 million bump for next year’s fund to continue operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) nuclear waste repository in California. For 2022, the DoE reported WIPP was accepting 14 shipments of waste a week from DoE sites across the country, but hopes added funding would ramp up the figure to 17 shipments a week.
Purdue University and Duke Energy recently announced they are teaming up to explore using nuclear power to meet the university’s long-term energy needs. The university has been searching for ways to minimize its use of fossil fuels, and Purdue’s President Mitch Daniels said no other options hold as much potential to provide reliable power with zero emissions as nuclear energy. This agreement comes less than two months after the state legislature passed a bill paving the way for small modular reactors to be deployed in Indiana.
A bill that passed in the Connecticut legislative session would exempt the Millstone Power Station from a construction moratorium. The bill is meant to allow the state’s existing nuclear power facilities to expand to other nuclear technologies on-site, but not to build a third full-scale reactor. Connecticut also passed a recent bill to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity supplied to Connecticut customers by 2040.
The State of Wyoming signed a memorandum of understanding with Battelle Energy Alliance to collaborate in the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies. The MoU’s objective is to leverage the strategies, capabilities, insights, and activities of the Idaho National Laboratory and Wyoming’s stakeholders for the benefit of Wyoming. In November 2021, TerraPower announced the selection of Kemmerer, Wyoming as the preferred site for its Natrium advanced reactor demonstration project.
Ohio lawmakers are pushing legislation to help develop molten salt nuclear technology in the state. HR 434 would set up an Ohio nuclear development authority within the state’s Department of Development meant to attract federal research contracts and would seek authority from the NNRC or the Department of Energy for the research and development of advanced nuclear technology. Supporters say the technology could generate carbon-free power for centuries while critics worry about the lack of spending limits and the lack of transparency with state economic development spending.
A recent financial report pushed the cost of the ongoing Vogtle nuclear plant to $30.34 billion. The Vogtle plant in the state of Georgia is the only nuclear plant currently under construction in the United States and has faced numerous delays and $920 million in overruns. When originally approved in 2012, the third and fourth reactors were estimated to generate electricity in 2016, but are now set to begin operation in 2023.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking to private industry for the design, development, fabrication, assembly, and testing of a nuclear thermal rocket engine fueled with high-assay low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. This is part of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. Phase 1 awards went to General Atomics for a preliminary design for the reactor and to Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin for a conceptual design of the in-orbit demonstration system. This work is scheduled to wrap up in October 2022.
The Argonne National Laboratory added the Thermal Hydraulic Experimental Test Article (THETA) for liquid metal fast reactors. The THETA is a 450-liter pool-type sodium vessel that will provide high-resolution and high-quality data that can be used to develop computer codes to support the licensing of liquid-metal fast reactor designs. THETA is currently running its first test with Oklo Inc. as the company seeks to better understand the behavior of its fast reactor designs.
Noteworthy Research
The World Nuclear Association released a report on global nuclear fuel supply and demand, including scenarios covering a range of possibilities for nuclear power up to 2040. The report found that excessive supply of primary uranium has contributed to very low uranium prices and a subsequent decline in investment for existing and new mining projects. The report also projects that enrichment requirements are expected to rise over the period from 2021 to 2040 due to prospective new nuclear projects. Some of the contents of the report include features of the nuclear fuel market, global energy and electricity demand, and factors affecting nuclear power growth.
The OECD released a report on the potential contribution of nuclear energy to clean energy capacity and emissions reductions. OECD argues that the contributions of long-term operation, new builds of Gen III and IV nuclear technologies, SMRs, and nuclear hybrid energy will play a significant role in pathways to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. The report also recommends that nuclear energy be given full representation in policy discussions about clean energy and climate change, arguing that nuclear energy already makes an important contribution to emissions reductions and that near-term nuclear innovations will make even further progress towards achieving emissions reduction targets.
Doublethink Lab and its regional partners worldwide published the first edition of the China Index. The Index is the first cross-regional project measuring and visualizing China’s expanding influence by presenting comparable data collected from different countries and territories. Of the 36 countries evaluated thus far, Cambodia, Singapore, and Thailand have been assessed as the top three countries most exposed to China’s influence.
The Nuclear Conversation
For twenty-five years 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.