This week we highlight recent agreements Rosatom signed with Vietnam and Rwanda, and China's new agreement with Argentina. We also note recent domestic nuclear developments, such as Xcel energy's recent announcement and the Department of Energy's latest funding for nuclear research. Lastly, we include two new reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA).
Strengthening U.S. Nuclear Leadership and Innovation
Guest Column by: Randolph Bell, Jennifer T. Gordon, and Robert F. Ichord, Jr.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has raised the global alarm on the decline of nuclear power , with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol noting that “ without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder .” The IEA’s conclusions illustrate the timeliness of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership, which last week published its report, entitled “ US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge .”

The Atlantic Council report argues that robust nuclear energy program is integral to US national security based on the extent to which it supports the military’s nuclear supply chain and US technological innovation and – at least as importantly – because nuclear energy exports allow for US nonproliferation and safety standards to be upheld. Nonetheless, the Task Force identified a series of overlapping policy problems that have led the civilian nuclear energy industry into its current state. Namely, premature closures of existing nuclear reactors, challenges in the domestic nuclear fuel cycle, and the difficulties of exporting competitively against state-owned nuclear enterprises in Russia and China have all led to a decline in the US ability to fund and export nuclear energy.

In order to address the problems facing the domestic nuclear energy program today and to regain US leadership on nuclear energy exports, the Task Force formulated three overarching policy recommendations. First, the US must maintain and expand its current fleet of domestic nuclear reactors. Secondly, the regulatory atmosphere in the US must do more to encourage technological innovation, both through increased government funding and policies, as well as through the mobilization of private financing for research, development, and demonstration of advanced reactors. Finally, the federal government must encourage nuclear energy exports and ensure that US exports can be competitive in the international market against foreign state-owned companies.

Federal and state governments must take action to halt the premature closures of domestic nuclear power plants. Not only are these plants a source of zero-carbon energy – and at risk of being replaced by fossil fuel plants – but they constitute an integral link in the military supply chain, both for technology and human capital. One approach for limiting plants closures is for electricity markets to value existing nuclear plants accurately, based on “ reliability, diversity, and zero emissions ,” possibly by including nuclear energy in renewable portfolio standards, both at the federal and state levels. The current fleet of nuclear reactors is indispensable – not only to today’s energy mix, but also to the next generation of future reactors.

The task force commended the Trump Administration for its leadership on nuclear energy policy and believes that a continued commitment from President Trump and Congress to a whole-of-government approach is essential to implementing the task force’s recommendations. Specifically, the task force recommended that the executive branch move to implement NEIMA, which “ directs the improvement in the NRC’s capacities and licensing framework for advanced nuclear reactors .” In conjunction with improving the regulatory atmosphere for advanced reactors, the NRC should work with counterparts in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea to increase cooperation. The task force also recommended partnership between the US Departments of Defense and Energy in order to fund investment in micro reactors, which have clear use cases for civilian and military purposes. Finally, the task force recognized the importance of public-private partnerships in financing for advanced nuclear technologies, as well as the necessity of developing a “ US origin enrichment capacity to produce HAELEU fuels .”

In order to make US nuclear energy exports competitive to international markets, the task force recommended federal support for nuclear energy exports, the maintenance of strong Section 123 agreements, and a streamlined process for the export control process under 10 CFR part 810. The US can increase its lending authority through Congressional reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by September 2019 and through the new US International Development Finance Corporation. Additionally, G7 and G20 countries can work to improve lending policies of international financial institutions, in order to facilitate loans for nuclear project construction. Section 123 agreements are the cornerstone of US nonproliferation policy, and a streamlined process for nuclear agreements, through “ fast-track general authorization[s] ,” and nuclear cooperation MOUs should bolster US nuclear diplomacy.

To read the full report by the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center’s Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership, please see “ US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge .

Randolph Bell is Director, Jennifer T. Gordon is Deputy Director, and
Robert F. Ichord, Jr. is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center

In a new report, the Atlantic Council Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership argues that if more of America’s nuclear power plants close over the coming decade, the U.S. could see further erosion of both its international influence and the industrial-scientific base critical to future innovation.
Nuclear Collaboration
Rosatom and Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure signed a deal to establish a nuclear science center in the country and a roadmap for establishing cooperation in the civil nuclear field.

Rosatom and Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a center for nuclear science and technology in Vietnam.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is willing to finance Argentina’s new nuclear power plant in Buenos Aires as the country prepares to sign a contract for a US$10 billion loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China that will cover 85% of the project’s costs. The agreement would mark a significant step in China’s efforts to boost its nuclear exports.

Rosatom’s Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) will assist China in creating various projects in areas related to nuclear energy. In RIAR's annual report for 2018, one of the most promising areas cited was the consulting services on China’s CFR-600 fast-neutron reactor construction project.

Russia has launched the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker as part of an ambitious program to renew and expand its fleet of the vessels to improve its ability to tap the Arctic’s commercial potential.

Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski told Polish Radio that Poland is planning to build a nuclear power plant in the northwest region of the country, Pomerania, by 2033.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Xcel Energy announced it plans to close its two remaining coal power plants in the Upper Midwest a decade earlier than scheduled, putting the utility on pace with its clean energy transition schedule in the region by 2030, integrating more renewable and carbon-free nuclear energy.
The US Department of Energy has selected three projects in three states in its latest quarterly application review to receive funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies. The three projects will receive a total of almost USD $10.6 million.

The Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a clean energy bill, which aims to reward the state’s nuclear power plants for their clean, baseload generation. The House Bill 6 bill has support from the governor but will need to pass Ohio’s Senate before it can become law.
Noteworthy Research
In a new report, titled Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said nuclear power could fall by as much as two-thirds in developed nations by 2040 because of a lack of policy support and economic investment, making it vastly harder to keep global warming in check.
The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a report, titled Enabling Nuclear Innovation: In Search of a SpaceX for Nuclear Energy. It's noted that Russia currently dominates the export market for new reactor builds, just as it did for commercial global launch services in 2010. To return the United States to a leadership role, the U.S. Department of Energy should learn from the legacy of the NASA commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) program. 
The Nuclear Conversation
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