In this issue we highlight the need for a multilateral policy approach to next-generation nuclear technologies as they enter the global arena, drawing from the policy framework applied to emerging 5G networks. We also note several significant investments by the United States government in the civil nuclear sector as it attempts to facilitate the development of advanced nuclear technologies. Finally, we draw attention to the United Arab Emirates, which this week became the first peaceful nuclear-operating country in the Arab World with the launch of its Barakah nuclear power plant.
A 5G Strategy for Next-Generation Nuclear Energy
In March, the White House released a national strategy to secure fifth generation wireless technology, noting that it is essential to future security and prosperity. One of its four key pillars was “promoting responsible global development of 5G infrastructure” based on a set of guidelines developed multilaterally in Prague in 2019. This approach should be replicated in guiding the future of next-generation nuclear technologies.

The Prague standards were driven by concerns about China’s major technology supplier, Huawei Technologies, the world’s leading telecom provider, and its alarming relationship with Chinese government institutions.

There should be healthy concern about authoritarian government-provided high technology because in the current geopolitical environment it rarely is provided without strings attached or exploitable vulnerabilities. For example, a 2017 intelligence law asserts that Chinese organizations and citizens “shall” cooperate with national intelligence authorities.

Interestingly, the U.S. government has determined that it is necessary to work with like-minded countries to lead the “responsible” international deployment of 5G technology. This is a break with the withdrawal doctrine that has become attached to recent U.S. foreign policy.

One form that this engagement has taken is a bilateral U.S.-Poland agreement on 5G cooperation based on the Prague guidelines. The plan is to expand these agreements to other nations, particularly in Europe, where Huawei technology is under consideration.

There are several interesting aspects of this telecom diplomatic strategy that are applicable to the global competition over the deployment of next-generation nuclear energy technologies.

It is already well established that Russia and China are going to be significant competitors in the next-generation technology market. The U.S. has been active in discouraging countries from making nuclear deals with both nations by working to build “coalitions of caution.” This is very consistent with its 5G strategy.

Also, the State Department has developed new approaches to civil nuclear cooperation that use non-binding Nuclear Cooperation Memoranda of Understanding (NCMOU). These agreements have been signed with Romania and Poland . They are being used to compete with the multiple nuclear MOUs signed with Russia and China around the world and are a tool for strengthening U.S. bilateral ties with key nations. Ultimately they may lead to the negotiation of formal bilateral agreements for nuclear cooperation. This approach also is similar to the 5G strategy.

But unlike its 5G strategy, the U.S. has not rallied its major allies in the civil nuclear space in a similar manner to the Prague approach. That method brought together 32 countries and resulted in a series of clear proposals for the future on policy, technology, the economy, and security.

A similar set of non-binding guidelines and principles for next-gen nuclear could and should be developed among “ like-minded ” nations. This could result in an evolved competitive model that provides an effective alternative to the state-backed packages of Russia and China, which offer project financing, operation, and waste management solutions. The strings attached to these sweetheart deals can be very toxic and the international community could decide which model provides the greatest long-term benefit and security.

A Prague approach for next-gen nuclear would need to move beyond OECD supplier nations to include the developing economy countries that are the likely markets for smaller reactors. Those nations mostly have limited experience in nuclear operation and oversight. This will require that exporting nations and industries offer deeper support for the development of effective hard and soft nuclear infrastructure. These efforts can be outlined in a new set of Prague-type principles and designed to be synergistic with the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

The emphasis placed on ensuring openness, transparency, and good governance in the deployment of 5G technologies is warranted because 5G will impact virtually every sector the global economy and the lives of every individual. But those same core principles also are applicable to the expansion of nuclear power.
Global security and prosperity will be strengthened by taking a Prague approach to building a responsible strategic framework for the next generation of nuclear energy. Avoiding it could strengthen the marketability of authoritarian government next-gen reactors and weaken the governance structure that is necessary for them.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security
New Report Spotlight

A recent study by the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) has found that SMRs would be a highly feasible addition to Puerto Rico’s existing energy infrastructure. The U.S. territory frequently records electricity demands higher than supply, and NAP results found that the reactors would provide a stable source of energy while receiving public support.
Nuclear Collaborations
Three Ghanian universities will partner with Russia’s Tomsk Polytechnic University to increase cooperative nuclear diplomacy and improve opportunities for nuclear education. The Russian-funded initiative comes as the Ghanian government is seeking out contractors for two planned nuclear units, with Moscow and Beijing the main competitors vying for influence. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The world’s first floating NPP has been fully commissioned by Russian nuclear regulator Rosenergoatom, marking the completion of Moscow’s sea-based nuclear project. Having already provided more than 47 GWh of electricity to Russia’s electrical grid, the Akademik Lomonosov is poised to lead Russia’s emerging next-generation nuclear export market.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the first peaceful nuclear nation in the Arab World following the successful completion of fuel assembly loading at Unit 1 of the Barakah NPP. The plant is expected to power roughly 25 per cent of the nation’s homes and businesses, and marks a significant milestone in the peaceful use of nuclear energy globally. 

Morocco has been hailed as an exemplar model for the monitoring of nuclear research reactors in Africa by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA described the country as an “example to follow” with regards to its regulatory compliance, independence and reliability, at a time when nuclear energy is seen as an increasingly viable energy alternative across the African continent. 

The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa has promoted Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as a promising option for the country’s long-term energy plans, citing reduced construction times, superior quality controls and flexible siting options. The group also acknowledged the benefits of SMRs in terms of water desalination, reliable electricity production and the ability to implement the reactors into existing electrical grids. 

Dr Christopher Ford, the top U.S. State Department and nuclear nonproliferation official, has delivered a stark warning to Britain about potential civil nuclear cooperation with a Chinese entity. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Ford issued a warning to policymakers about a possible loss of energy independence and an increase in Beijing’s political leverage over the U.K.

Japan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, located in Aomori, has passed an initial safety inspection by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. While several more safety inspections are required before the plant begins operating, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. hopes that the plant will commence operations in the first half of 2021. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The U.S. Senate has reappointed Republican Commissioner David Wright to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on a five-year term in one of the Chamber’s final acts before breaking for Memorial Day,while Democratic nominee Chris Hanson has been approved on a four-year contract. The move brings the NRC back to its full complement of five members.

Following a series of recommendations by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG), a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have called for reduced uranium imports from Russia. A letter addressed to the Department of Commerce (DOC) outlined their stance, which aims to protect U.S. uranium industries from “aggressive and illegal trade practices of nuclear state-owned enterprises of foreign adversaries.”

A second group of bipartisan senators have called upon the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to fasttrack the establishment of a nuclear regulatory framework. The move would allow innovators to develop advanced nuclear technologies at a reduced risk before the current deadline of an established framework, which currently stands at December 31, 2027.

Next-generation nuclear technology designed by U.S.-based GE Hitachi will be used as a guide for projects under the Department of Energy’s (DOE) multi-million dollar nuclear energy investment scheme. Hitachi’s 300 MWe SMR will be the basis of two projects funded by the DOE, in a recent push to advance the U.S.’s domestic civil nuclear and technology sector.

The reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel has been touted as an area for investment by Assistant Energy Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal, after she reaffirmed her interest in finding a foreign entity to reprocess used U.S. nuclear fuels. 

The NRC has halved the time required for spent-fuel storage license reviews since 2010 to roughly 24 months, says Director of the NRC’s Division of Fuel Management Andrea Kock. Speaking at a webinar earlier this month, Kock also claimed that the costs of such have also been halved, though the NRC did not provide specifics for this claim.

In a significant boost for the U.S. civil nuclear industry, the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy announced $230 million in funding for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration program (ARDP). The program will provide investments in next-generation advanced nuclear technologies as a means of providing low-carbon, reliable energy while maintaining geopolitical and technological competitiveness with Russian and Chinese nuclear industries. 

The U.S. DOE will provide $160 million for an advanced reactor demonstration program to construct two operational reactors within five to seven years. The move follows an earlier announcement by the U.S. Congress of a $230 million package for the demonstration of advanced nuclear reactors, and indicates a significant shift in domestic nuclear technology investment. 

Georgia Power’s Vogtle project has marked another significant milestone after the integrated head package of its Unit 3 reactor was placed atop the containment vessel and shield-building roof. The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor is now 90 per cent complete as the project edges towards completion.

Randy Weber, the Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Energy Subcommittee, has introduced legislation to improve nuclear energy research and advance next-generation nuclear technology. The Nuclear Energy for the Future Act focuses on increasing the resources and infrastructure needed for nuclear energy development, reducing nuclear waste and making reactors smaller, amongst other developments. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
X-Energy, a U.S.-based nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering company, has entered into an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to test TRISO-X fuel at the university’s research reactor. The project is seeking to advance the use of TRISO fuel, which could significantly reduce the risk of nuclear accidents and generate less waste than traditional fuels.
Noteworthy Research
The Atlantic Council Global Energy Center launched a report, “ European Energy Security and the Critical Role of Transatlantic Energy Cooperation: Final Report and Recommendations” discussing the importance of continued energy cooperation between the US and the EU for enhancing European energy security, and facilitating the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.
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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