In this week’s issue, we discuss the challenge with the Biden administration's mixed signaling on the role of nuclear energy in supporting a zero-carbon agenda. We also highlight a recent report from the Partnership for Global Security and the Nuclear Innovation Alliance laying out a roadmap for the U.S. to become a global leader in advanced nuclear energy. Finally, we bring attention to increasing China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation as both nation’s leaders attended a virtual groundbreaking ceremony of four Russian-supplied reactors to China.
Division on Biden’s Clean Energy Fission
The world is betting on the Biden administration to do something serious about climate change. But it seems to be sending mixed signals on one of the most significant zero-carbon energy sources in the clean energy arsenal, nuclear power.
A new report from the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) notes that “the procurement of nuclear power” is an example of a project that “Will Not Benefit a Community.”
WEHJAC was established to provide recommendations on climate and economic justice to other White House organizations, including The Council of Environmental Quality.
The recommendation to oppose new nuclear energy seems to be at odds with White House climate advisor, Gina McCarthy’s, statement last month that noted the administration’s plan for a clean electricity standard is “going to be inclusive” and incorporate nuclear power.
It also seems to contradict the fact sheet produced by the White House for the Biden Leader’s Summit on Climate. It identified one of the U.S. summit deliverables as “Launching the FIRST Program to support the use of small modular reactors.”
FIRST is a State Department initiative, coordinated with other key government agencies, that seeks to build capacity with partner nations “on secure and safe nuclear energy infrastructure” with a focus on small modular and advanced reactors. The program notes that it is assisting the U.S. in its leadership to address the climate crisis and “conserve our environment.”
The administration also is spending well over $1 billion on numerous programs at the Department of Energy in support of existing and new types of nuclear energy. All aligned with the administration’s prioritization of addressing climate change.
Further, the Good Energy Collective, a progressive energy policy organization, has identified specific actions that can be taken in the nuclear energy area to support the administration’s Justice 40 Initiative. This is part of an Executive Order that requires 40% of the benefit of federal funding for climate-related energy activities be provided to disadvantaged communities. Justice 40 is prominently featured in the WHEJAC assessment.
The dissonance on the role of nuclear energy in supporting a zero-carbon agenda isn’t unexpected. There remains squeamishness in embracing nuclear power as clean energy among some climate advocates.
This attitude may extend to administration climate change officials who have been reluctant to publicly identify how nuclear energy beyond the existing fleet will fit into their carbon-reduction plan over the next 30 years.
But the reality is that nuclear reactors now provide over 50% of U.S. carbon-free electricity and it will be extremely difficult to impossible to achieve net zero-carbon by 2050 without it.
This reality is not exclusive to the U.S. Its allies are increasingly warming to the role that nuclear power will have to play in achieving their 2050 carbon reduction commitments.
Canada is already deeply committed to the development of next-generation small modular reactors for three clean energy purposes.
The largest application is on-grid electricity to replace fossil fuels, accommodate energy demand growth, and support renewable energy. The numerous remote communities in the country are heavily reliant on diesel fuel and these small reactors would replace that dependency. And the use of these technologies in heavy industry and resource extraction would reduce their carbon footprint and potentially produce clean hydrogen.
Similarly, the United Kingdom government has embraced nuclear as clean energy in its most recent energy white paper. It anticipates a mix of new, large reactors and small modular and advanced reactors as essential elements of its domestic clean energy plan.
Even Japan and South Korea, with populations and politicians deeply scarred by the Fukushima nuclear accident, are slowly moving forward with next-generation, small nuclear reactor development to support their mid-century net-zero carbon commitments.
When the President states that climate change is an “existential threat” to the U.S., its economy, and the planet and that “we can’t wait any longer” to act with urgency, the expectation is that all elements of the administration will be pulling out all the stops to achieve this objective.
But there seems to be a disconnect inside the Biden bureaucracy on the nuclear issue.
This can be remedied if the White House assigned at least one and preferable two officials to direct the climate-nuclear agenda. One person could focus on the domestic and regulatory issues and the other on exports, nuclear geopolitics, and international security. Both would need the authority to strategically direct and harmonize the actions of the key government agencies.
The urgent need for this is obvious. The COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November needs to supercharge global clean energy strategy. If nuclear energy is consigned to the back bench at that event, then achieving zero-carbon in 2050 could disappear into the atmosphere.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

In case you missed it - the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) and the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a joint report defining a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. to become the global leader in advanced nuclear power. Based on stakeholder engagement across industry, government, and civil society, this strategy provides guidance for the Biden Administration, Congress, industry, and others on the commercialization of advanced reactors for climate mitigation and the advancement of global security. The report was released with a webinar that is available online.
Nuclear Collaborations
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to provide engineering, operations, and licensing support to help Kairos Power deploy its Hermes low-power demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park. The reactor model aims to be “cost competitive with natural gas in the U.S. electricity market and to provide a long-term reduction in cost.”
NuScale Power and Canada’s Prodigy Clean Energy have signed a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to “support business development opportunities” for a marine-deployed NPP integrating NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology and Prodigy’s Marine Power Station. The two companies, who have worked together since 2018, have completed the conceptual design and economic assessment phases of the project, which could have “lower costs and shorter schedules” than terrestrial deployments.
The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will use Bloom Energy’s solid oxide, high-temperature electrolyzer to test clean hydrogen production from nuclear-generated electricity. Bloom Energy hopes to begin the demonstration with INL, which could expand the market for NPPs, this year and “establish carbon-free hydrogen generation with the highest efficiency of any electrolyzer in the market today.”
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) have agreed to collaborate on the development of technologies to produce and store hydrogen via small- and mid-sized reactors and water powered systems. Doosan Heavy has also said that its fuel cell manufacturing affiliate will work with KHNP on future hydrogen projects.
Three indigenous companies in northern Saskatchewan have signed an MoU to invest in Canadian SMR technology. The organizations plan to “address key items for SMR investment, including research, due diligence, environmental, communications and financing.”
X-Press Feeders, the “largest independent common carrier in the world,” has become one of six investors in Britain’s CORE POWER, which is developing a modular molten salt reactor (m-MSR) to help fuel ships and enable manufacturing of synthetic green fuels from hydrogen. The first prototype reactor is scheduled to begin trials in 2025.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually watched and spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony of four new Russia-supplied reactors at the Tianwan and Xudapu nuclear power plants (NPPs), the “biggest China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation project to date.” The Tianwan units will join six others at the site, the last of which was recently connected to the electrical grid. The exchange, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said would be “of great significance” to the bilateral strategic partnership “in a new era,” took place a day before the “highest-level in-person meeting” between officials from the Biden and Putin administrations. 
The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has opened the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) to advanced nuclear technologies. The GDA process involves assessment of the “safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended to be deployed in Great Britain.”
UK SMR, a Rolls-Royce-led consortium, has revealed the latest design of its SMR. The consortium hopes that the new optimized model, which has an increased power output (440 MW to 470 MW), will undergo regulatory review in the second half of 2021 and be the first advanced reactor design assessed under the newly expanded GDA. UK SMR aims to construct its first SMR by the early 2030s and build up to ten by 2035.
Slovakia’s nuclear regulator has granted permission for Unit 3 at the Mochovce NPP to be brought online. Units 3 and 4 are expected to provide around 25 percent of the country’s electricity, and the plant’s owner claims that commissioning Unit 3 will “allow the country [to] reach energy self-sufficiency for the first time since 2007.”
Poland’s Ministry of Education and Science and National Centre for Nuclear Research have signed a €13 million contract for the design of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). Poland will work with Japanese partners to develop the technology, which will serve research and demonstration purposes
Japan’s Mihama-3 NPP, which has been offline since the Fukushima disaster, is scheduled to restart in late June and become the first domestic reactor to operate beyond the government’s 40-year limit. However, the reactor will likely only operate until around October 25 due to projected unfinished implementation of counterterrorism measures.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party has submitted a draft law to make its national nuclear regulatory agency independent from the government, as per an EU request. The legislation would allow Orban to appoint a non-dismissible chairperson to the body, which currently has a vacant chief position, for nine years.
KHNP is accelerating the development of an innovative SMR (i-SMR), hoping to enter the export market in 2030 and obtain necessary licenses by 2028. The company intends to invest around 400 billion won to “design an SMR over five years and obtain licenses over three years.”
KHNP has applied to the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission (NSSC) to gain permission to dismantle the Kori-1 reactor, which is located near Busan. The unit became the first South Korean reactor to enter decommissioning back in June 2017.
Finland’s Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) and the Areva-Siemens plant supplier consortium have finalized the terms for completion of the Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Eurajoki, which is expected to be connected to the grid in October. The agreement is scheduled to be signed by the end of May.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council has included nuclear power in the “Examples of the Types of Projects That Will Not Benefit a Community” section of its newly released ‘Interim Final Recommendations’ report. The Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will now review these proposals, but White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy has said that the administration has “not taken anything [technology-wise] off the table.”
697 organizations have sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to include and pass a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) in the infrastructure package, which would call for a 100 percent renewable grid by 2030. Expressing concerns with the recent Clean Energy Standard legislation, the group calls for congressional leaders to “reject gas and other false climate solutions to address the climate emergency.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) will allocate up to $40 million in funding for a new ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) program that seeks to produce a tenfold reduction in spent nuclear fuel and waste volume generation from advanced reactors. The new initiative, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), will focus on improving fuel recycling and sensor and data fusion technologies, as well as developing versatile high-performance waste forms for all advanced reactor classes.
Georgia Power Co. has announced that testing delays will not allow Vogtle-3 to start generating electricity until at least January. The one-month delay is expected to add $48 million to the cost of Vogtle-3 and 4, and testing is now “unlikely to be completed before late June.”
Florida’s Turkey Point NPP has received a performance downgrade from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), going from “green” to “white,” after experiencing four unplanned shutdowns in seven months. Federal regulators will now perform additional monitoring and inspection work, the latter of which is expected to finish by August. Turkey Point is one of only three downgraded domestic NPPs.
Arizona’s utility regulators have rejected a proposal requiring regulated state utilities to obtain half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and 100 percent from clean energy (including nuclear) by 2050. Current renewable energy standards only require utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
EnergySolutions has agreed to buy Wisconsin’s former Kewaunee NPP and hopes to decommission the site within ten years, as opposed to the current owner’s planned fifty. EnergySolutions expects to begin decommissioning work next year.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
President Biden has signed an executive order to strengthen federal cybersecurity. The measure, which was drawn up in the aftermath of the SolarWinds cyber-attack, includes provisions concerning issues like agency user authentication and incident review and reporting. The order also directs the Department of Commerce to “craft cybersecurity standards for companies that sell software services to the federal government,” publish guidelines for software supply-chain security within a specific time frame and define and adopt security measures for “critical software.”
Self-sustaining fission reactions have restarted in an inaccessible chamber of the Chernobyl NPP, sparking fears of “an uncontrolled release of nuclear energy.” However, staff have claimed that recent increases in nuclear activity in the plant’s damaged fourth reactor have tapered off and do not exceed safety standards. Scientists are “carefully studying and monitoring” the unit.
Per the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, “fluctuations” have pushed Iranian uranium enrichment up to 63 percent purity. The report arrives as talks to bring the U.S. and Iran back to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and negotiations concerning an IAEA monitoring agreement due to expire on May 21 continue.
China has announced plans to have a “fully operational facility” capable of extracting uranium from seawater, where reserves are believed to be 1000 times more abundant, in around a decade. Construction on the project, which will help reinforce reserves set to expire in five years, could begin as early as 2026.
Lightbridge Corporation has used a novel high-temperature coextrusion process to demonstrate the manufacturing process for surrogate fuel rods for commercial-scale SMRs. Lightbridge claims that its fuel can “reduce the cost of generating electricity from an SMR, while delivering to both SMRs and large reactors increased power output, safety improvements and enhanced non-proliferation benefits.”
Massachusetts Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren have sent a letter to the NRC encouraging the adoption of stronger safety standards and practices regarding the state’s Seabrook Station NPP. The senators express special concern over alkali-silica reaction degradation, as the plant sits on a marsh. The NRC has said that it will respond directly to the senators.
Another case of unauthorized entry at Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP has been revealed. The incident, which occurred in 2015, is one of many that have led the country’s nuclear regulator to ban restarting the plant until corrective measures are implemented. Regarding another TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) NPP, Fukushima-2, which is set to be decommissioned, has been found to have flawed anti-terrorism measures
A ransomware attack on a Spanish cloud services company left clients without service, rendering the website and electronic headquarters of the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) inaccessible. While no updated English-language articles have been published, the website appears to be operational at the moment.
EDF will have to keep England’s Sizewell B NPP offline for three additional months to repair quickly-degrading steel “thermal sleeves.” The company will have to “submit a robust safety case” to the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) before its scheduled restart by the end of August.
Russia’s Leningrad-II NPP has allegedly used a novel robotic system to diagnose and repair a used nuclear fuel pool. The chief engineer of the facility noted that such processes are “normally carried out by personnel,” take several days, and require fuel unloading. However, the robot can “complete the task in a few hours” without removing fuel from the pool.
Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) is seeking Expressions of Interest by May 21 for a “potential multi-phase demonstration program” concerning hybrid energy systems for advanced reactors. The initiative would be carried out by the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) and the Crosscutting Technology Development Integrated Energy Systems (CTD IES) program.
GE Hitachi and GE Digital have introduced Outage Planning and Analytics (OPA), a “digital solution” intended to help NPP operators “plan, schedule and execute maintenance and refueling outages.” The product is currently available to U.S. operators of boiling water (BWR) and pressurized water (PWR) reactors.
Noteworthy Research
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released the “world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth.” According to the IEA, in the net-zero pathway, nuclear power will help “provide an essential foundation for transitions.”
FORATOM’s Investment Framework Task Force (TsF) has released a report delineating how new nuclear projects can be financed. The authors emphasize the importance of investment ratings and the ability to attract debt. The TsF also recommends a multi-sourcing financing approach, the establishment of a “stable and long-term investment policy framework,” the development of “transparent and harmonized” corporate and sustainability reporting frameworks, and the alignment of nuclear projects with long-term climate goals via political measures.

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has published a new report suggesting reforms to the current NRC licensing fee model, which it argues inhibits advanced nuclear innovation. Recommendations for Congress include increasing funding for advanced reactor regulatory infrastructure and either adapting the license fee cost recovery model to minimize fees for new license applicants or expanding options for DOE funding of advanced reactor licensing.
The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has released a new status report on ‘Long-Term Management and Actions for a Severe Accident in a Nuclear Power Plant.’ The report reviews “knowledge and experience gained through long-term management (LTM) of the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi accidents,” as well as pertinent “existing regulations and guidance, practices, technical bases and issues” considered in NEA member states.
In a new report, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) proposes a $1 trillion infrastructure investment package to “address the priorities and concerns that define the current debate.” The plan allocates $300 billion for the clean energy transition, with separate $100 billion investments going towards “Innovation and Scaling” and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure, respectively. The BPC believes the former should include efforts to accelerate the commercialization of advanced nuclear facilities, while the latter should include the extension and expansion of energy tax credits to support the deployment of nuclear technologies, among others.
The Energy Innovation Reform Project’s Task Force on U.S. Indo-Pacific Energy Strategy has published a new report about ‘Advancing American Energy and Innovation in the Indo-Pacific Region.’ The authors view the U.S. as insufficiently competitive in energy and energy technology markets and advise adopting new economic, security, and clean energy–focused policies and approaches to address this issue.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have released a report that discusses the ‘Economic and Carbon Impacts of Potential Illinois Nuclear Plant Closures.’ The authors’ model of Illinois’ electric grid suggests that decarbonization of the state’s electricity system will demand expansion of nuclear capacity, noting that decarbonization without existing nuclear would require the displacement of 10,000 km2 of “critical Illinois farmland.” The report finds that deployment of advanced nuclear technologies is the least expensive way to reach zero-carbon by 2030 without such displacement.
A new blog post from the Open Lunar Foundation explores governance challenges associated with using nuclear energy on the Moon. Issues center around government versus commercial ownership and operation, the safety of launch and space travel, decommissioning and waste storage, and non-proliferation. 
The Nuclear Conversation
BusinessGreen, May 20

The Korea Herald, May 19

World Nuclear News, May 19

Los Angeles Times, May 18
World Nuclear Association, May 18
Eurasia Review, May 17
APTN National News, May 16
American Nuclear Society, May 14
World Nuclear Association, May 14
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, May 14
Morning Consult, May 13
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 13
GreenBiz, May 13
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 13
Canada’s National Observer, May 12
S&P Global Market Intelligence, May 12
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, May 11
International Atomic Energy Agency, May 10
Nikkei Asia, May 9
Bloomberg, May 7
World Nuclear News, May 7
Utility Dive, May 6
Washington Examiner, May 6
Utility Dive, May 6
World Nuclear News, May 6
CBS News, May 6
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