In this week’s newsletter, we assess the results of the U.S.-South Korea summit in Washington last week and the troubling lack of progress on repairing the bilateral civil nuclear relationship. We spotlight the extensive new National Academy of Sciences assessment of the requirements for establishing a sound foundation for new and advanced reactors in the U.S. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
Biden-Yoon Strengthen Cooperation on Nuclear Weapons, Not Energy
In the forest of U.S.-South Korea relations it seems that there is still only one Redwood, North Korea. Amid the expanding grove of Biden-Yoon summit commitments last week, the towering deliverable was the Washington Declaration, designed to strengthen U.S. deterrence commitments to South Korea and further involve Seoul in American nuclear weapons planning.
This initiative was intended to defuse the Korean desire for its own nuclear devices in the face of the ever expanding North Korean nuclear and missile threat. However, the result did not resonate with some Korean conservatives.
Preventing war on the Korean peninsula is the paramount objective. But stunted and withering in the shadow of the Washington Declaration was bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation. This is an area where the collaborative nuclear agenda can make positive contributions to global advancement rather than facilitate its destruction.
Unlike the two preceding U.S.-ROK summit statements in 2021 and 2022, the documents did not commit the two countries “to develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects” or “commit to greater nuclear energy collaboration and accelerating the development and global deployment of advanced reactors and small modular reactors.”
Instead, it nebulously noted that each nation will promote “the responsible development and deployment of civil nuclear energy globally,” commit to the IAEA safeguards Additional Protocol “in global civil nuclear cooperation,” and respect the “other’s export control regulations and intellectual property rights.” A press release from a side meeting between the U.S. Secretary of Energy and the Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy echoed the empty presidential statement on nuclear cooperation.
This rhetorical recission is the poison fruit from the multi-year fight between the two nation’s largest nuclear companies, KEPCO and Westinghouse. It is a significant sign of continuing and potentially accelerating trouble in the bilateral nuclear power relationship at a time when greater solidarity is required.
Ordinarily, the forcing mechanism of the summit would create the conditions for a resolution of the commercial conflict. But it seems the dispute was either unsolvable or too low a priority on the summit agenda.
The companies have missed two deadlines for agreement, one in mid-March and now the summit. The lack of progress on the issue probably means that Westinghouse’s lawsuit against KEPCO and its subsidiary, KHNP, will proceed.
It is likely that the legal issue in dispute – whether Korea’s APR-1400 nuclear reactor contains Westinghouse controlled technology and therefore is subject to U.S. export controls – will be resolved in favor of the American company. Korean officials know this.
So, it’s hard to understand what the endgame for either side is in perpetuating this bitter battle. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the large reactor market is only growing. And that seems to be the problem. The two nuclear goliaths are fighting for market share. But it is questionable whether either company has the capacity alone to complete all the reactors they are seeking.
The fact remains that each is integrally dependent on the other for building their reactors and both make money from the other’s success. Increasing the rivalry beyond its already elevated level could create deep alienation, significantly reshape supply chains, help authoritarian nation nuclear suppliers, and undermine global climate and energy imperatives.
The two central battlegrounds are Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Eastern European nations considering future reactors are leaning toward America.
There is an agreement for multiple Westinghouse reactors to be built in Poland. There is a separate private deal between a Polish power company and KEPCO for two reactors, but its implementation could be a challenge. Romania is interested in the American small modular reactor from NuScale. Bulgaria has signed an MOU with Westinghouse for one to two new reactors. And the Czech Republic is evaluating Korean, American, and French reactor offers.
KEPCO has submitted a proposal to Turkey for four new nuclear plants where it will face off against Russia, which is already constructing nuclear reactors in the country. There also is opportunity in the U.K, which has made a major commitment to nuclear energy expansion. Recently, South Korea and the U.K. signed a joint agreement on nuclear cooperation that could open the door to involvement in Britain’s new nuclear construction. Then there are other nations, like India, that are interested in additional large reactors to serve its growing energy needs.
In the Middle East, the major nuclear export target at the moment is Saudi Arabia. But it is difficult to discern the Saudi leadership’s preferred pathway.
It has stated a desire for U.S. assistance with its nuclear development but has excluded Westinghouse from its list of potential vendors. The kingdom has expanded its nuclear relationship with China, which is looking for an overseas market beachhead for its Hualong reactor. But there is no commitment to purchase the plant. It has invited Russia’s state nuclear company, Rosatom, to bid on its reactors despite Russia’s battered reputation from the invasion of Ukraine.
The Saudi leadership can clearly see the success that South Korea has had in building four of its reactors in the United Arab Emirates. And KEPCO is now supporting Russia in constructing Egypt’s initial nuclear plant, making it, along with Rosatom, a leading Middle East nuclear supplier.
If the U.S. cannot directly cooperate with Saudi Arabia, the next best choice from the American government’s perspective should be South Korea, not China or Russia.
Because of the dependence of the Korean reactor on U.S. export approvals, that could be very challenging to pull off. It is virtually inconceivable that the U.S. Congress would agree to a U.S.-Saudi nuclear cooperation agreement in the foreseeable future. The legislative body has the final word on the approval of official nuclear cooperation deals and its animosity toward Saudi Arabia is high.
But U.S. support for a Korean bid may not be impossible, particularly if the Saudi government softened its opposition to the safeguards Additional Protocol. Or if Saudi leadership raised the stakes by indicating a preference for Chinese or Russian reactors or considered Egypt as a model for Korean-Russian joint construction.
If Korea decided to move forward with a Saudi deal without U.S. approval and support, perhaps using UAE and Saudi financing and new suppliers, it would decimate the bilateral nuclear relationship of trust these nations have developed over decades. That is not an outcome anyone should desire, and it is dangerous. It is the reason why the corporate conflict needs to be settled amicably, fairly, and quickly.
Beyond large reactors, the small reactor market is emerging. Here, there is some good news from the summit. The two leaders committed to “build capacity in recipient countries”, referring to those nations that may want nuclear energy but are not well prepared for it.
The IAEA has a number of programs that help support nations in their development of nuclear energy-related capacities. But more is needed in relation to small reactors, some of which may not fit well within current IAEA guidance.
Evolving that guidance and intensively building capacity in these nuclear newcomer nations is an area on which the U.S. and South Korea should cooperate. The objective should be to have at least three developing economy nations interested in small reactors prepared for their deployment in the next decade.
The Biden-Yoon summit did not deliver progress on bilateral nuclear cooperation the way it did on nuclear weapons planning. The Washington Declaration is an indication that the Obama-era vision for a “world without nuclear weapons” is giving way to the cold-eyed realities that threatened nations will consider the creation of their own atomic arsenals and that the deterrent value of nuclear weapons remains salient.
But another reality is that the cooperative nuclear energy agenda is essential for other critical global goals including zero-carbon power, energy security, technology superiority, and geostrategic advantage over Russia and China. A retreat by the U.S. and South Korea from their once-heralded nuclear power collaboration will undermine all of these objectives. But, apparently, it’s hard for Washington and Seoul to see the forest for the trees.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a groundbreaking new report that identifies the many barriers and opportunities facing new and advanced nuclear reactors and their role in addressing climate change and energy security. It offers numerous recommendations designed to support the role of these reactors in achieving these objectives and commercial viability. The report notes that advanced reactors must achieve success in a number of areas: demonstrating new reactor technologies, identifying the business case for non-electric applications of the technology, proving cost competitiveness with other low-carbon power technologies, improving construction and project management over current practices, obtaining regulatory approval, gaining social acceptance, and responding to security and safeguards obligations.

Of particular note, the report states that the U.S. regulations governing existing light-water reactors will need to be adjusted for next-generation reactors, and calls on Congress to provide the NRC with the funding required to perform this work on an expedited basis. It also presciently identifies that it is essential to prepare international markets and nations for these technologies and calls on the executive branch and private sector to support exporters with a financing package for U.S. reactors that allows for effective competition against state-financed competitors, like Russia and China.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker. In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified. Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made continued veiled threats regarding the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. However, the head of the U.S. intelligence stated that Russia is “very unlikely” to use nuclear weapons.
The IAEA continued to note military activity in the area around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Staff had to take shelter following missile attack warnings and heard shelling in the distance. IAEA Director Rafael Grossi again stated that the military actions underline the need for an agreement to protect the plant. Over the past year, maintenance at the plant has also suffered with only a quarter of the regular maintenance staff available.
Russia informed the IAEA that equipment sighted at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant will be used to fix a power transmission line that leads to Russian-held territory. The Kakhovka power line is linked to the currently Russian-controlled electrical grid. The planned restoration of the downed power line heightens Ukrainian fears that Russia is preparing to connect the Zaporizhzhia power plant to the territory that it controls.
Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom signed a cooperation agreement with Holtec International to deploy up to 20 Holtec SMR-160 plants in the country. The first plant would begin supplying power in 2029. A manufacturing facility will also be established to locally produce required equipment. Ukraine’s Energy Minister stated that SMR construction would strengthen energy security and help achieve decarbonization goals.
On April 26th, Ukrainians marked the 37th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In a Telegram post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his warnings of a potential new disaster amid the war with Russia. He also raised the concern of Russia using nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the wider world.
Nuclear Collaborations
Additional US-South Korea collaborations on SMRs were announced during President Yoon Suk-Yeol’s summit in Washington. NuScale Power signed a memorandum of understanding with Doosan Enerbility and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) on marketing, technical support, and developing a global supply chain. SK Inc. and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) agreed with TerraPower to support the demonstration and commercialization of the Natrium reactor. Finally, Holtec International signed agreements with KEXIM and K-Sure to provide support for SMR-160 projects around the world.
NuScale Power officials met with Philippine government officials on the margins of President Bongbong Marcos’ visit to Washington. They discussed small modular reactor deployment and stated that NuScale will conduct a siting study and is expected to provide around $7 billion to provide 430 MWe of nuclear-powered electricity by 2031. The move follows NuScale working with partners in Poland, Indonesia, and Romania.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin both addressed a ceremony marking the arrival and loading of the first fuel for the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. The $20 billion Akkuyu power plant is being built by Russian nuclear agency Rosatom. Once all four units are operational by the end of 2028, the plant will supply about 10% of Turkey’s electricity needs.
Japan and France signed an agreement to work together in developing next-generation nuclear reactors following a meeting between the two countries’ ministers in Paris. The two countries will also cooperate in improving the safety of existing nuclear reactors so that they can keep operating for a longer period of time, decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and supporting related supply chains. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has already announced plans to spend $337 million over three years to develop next-generation reactors.
Russian and Armenian officials met to discuss further extending the operating life of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant’s second unit, as well as the possibility of building new nuclear reactors. During the meeting, the two sides agreed on specific steps for the near future, which will allow re-extension work to be launched by the end of this year. Rosatom added that it was ready to offer Armenia Russian-designed nuclear power plants with VVER reactors.
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and SK E&C to conduct joint research and development for commercialization of Hydrogen Micro Hubs over the next five years. The first hub will be built at the Seoul headquarters of SK E&C. The hydrogen production will use USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor in conjunction with a high-temperature electrolysis process.
Tokamak Energy of the United Kingdom will send its gamma radiation cryostat system to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico so that it can be exposed to extreme conditions to test fusion power plant performance. Research and analysis on sets of individual magnets will run for six months at the New Mexico facility. Tokamak built and commissioned its system as part of its mission to deliver fusion power in the 2030s.
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), Samsung Heavy Industries, and Seaborg Industries have created a consortium to develop floating nuclear power plants based on Seaborg’s innovative molten salt reactor technology. The power plants will be installed on barges with a modular design able to deliver between 200 to 800 MWe per barge.
Urenco and Cameco signed a long-term nuclear fuel supply contract with Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. The agreement will see Urenco’s enrichment facilities receive natural uranium from Cameco and supply enriched uranium products for fabrication into nuclear fuel rods. Cameco said the 10-year supply contract will meet the full requirements of Kozloduy Unit 5 through 2033.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman reportedly stated that there will be no South Korean nuclear power plants built in Poland. The CEO said that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power’s (KHNP) exports of its nuclear reactor without the approval of the American government and Westinghouse violates international law and U.S. regulations. KHNP responded by stating it’s not true that the APR1400 reactor can’t be exported to Poland without Westinghouse’s prior consent. Additionally, South Korea has called on the United States to resolve the legal dispute over South Korea’s potential nuclear reactor exports to the Czech Republic.
China is currently working to rapidly expand its nuclear capacity in the next few decades. The China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) stated in a report that China is taking the lead when it comes to building nuclear power units, with the country having 24 nuclear power plants currently under construction. Additionally, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) chairman Yang Changli said that the country is seeking to increase China’s nuclear capacity sevenfold by 2060, as well as building nuclear capacity in partner countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Construction officially began of unit 4 of the Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in China’s Shandong province. Concrete was poured last week for what will be the second of two CAP1000 pressurized water reactors at the site, along with unit 3. The two units are slated to be fully operational in 2027.
In its draft Climate Fund for 2024, the Netherlands’ government budgeted funds totaling €320 million ($352 million) for the development of nuclear energy. The funds will be used for the operational extension of the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant, the construction of two new large reactors, the development of small modular reactors (SMR), and for nuclear skills development in the Netherlands. Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten added that the Netherlands plans to build the two new reactors by 2035.
The French state is resuming its takeover of Electricite de France (EDF) now that the Paris Court of Appeal has dismissed a claim lodged by minority shareholders in EDF challenging the deal. The minority shareholders argued that the price offered to the shareholders was too low. The appeals court confirmed that the state’s offer is valid with regard to applicable legislative and regulatory provisions.
Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) submitted applications to Poland’s Ministry of Climate for a decision-in-principle on the construction of power plants based on GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small modular reactors at six locations around the country. The decision confirms whether the investment is in the public interest and state policies. The decision will also allow OSGE to make final siting decisions and construction permits.
Two Indian companies, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), agreed on a joint venture to develop six 700 MWe pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) in two sites. The Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy, R.K. Singh, noted the country’s rapidly growing power demand and stated that generation capacity had to increase in tandem.
South Korea started construction on the Kijang Research Reactor, a 15 MWt open-tank-in-pool reactor. It will allow exports of major medical and industrial radioactive isotopes: today the country is dependent on imports of those isotopes. Completion is slated for 2026 and full operation for 2027.
Kansai Electric Power asked Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for permission to extend the lifespan of units 3 and 4 at its Takahama Nuclear Power Plant by 20 years. Kansai said it has carried out inspections and evaluations of the two units and has not found any issues likely to cause problems if the operating period was to be extended to 60 years. The Takahama plant is home to four reactors, with units 1 and 2 being the first Japanese nuclear units to be granted a license extension beyond 40 years under revised regulations.
Construction began on unit 3 of Egypt’s El Dabaa nuclear power plant. According to the chairman of Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority the project is proceeding on schedule. When complete, the plant will comprise four VVER-1200 reactors, with Russia supplying fuel for its entire life cycle and training personnel for the first ten years of operation.
Rosatom announced the two reactor vessels and eight steam generators are being shipped to India’s Kudankulam 5 reactor unit and China’s Tianwan 7 unit, the first time two sets of such equipment have been shipped at the same time from the Atommash production facility. The components were moved by barge to Saint Petersburg before traveling by sea to India and China. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a Russian export project, comprising two large VVER-1000 reactors in operation and four more under construction. The Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant includes two VVER-1200 reactor units that are planned to be commissioned in 2028.
Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor granted a license to build the country’s first land-based small modular reactor (SMR) unit in the Republic of Sakha. Rosatom’s SMR is a water-cooled RITM-200N reactor that has been adapted from the RITM-200 series used to power the latest fleet of Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers. The land-based SMR is planned to be commissioned in 2028.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Westinghouse Electric Company launched its newest nuclear technology, the AP300 small modular reactor (SMR). The AP300 SMR is a modular-constructed unit that leverages the knowledge and innovation of the global AP1000 fleet, including major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. The AP300 SMR design utilizes Westinghouse’s Gen III+ advanced technology, which has regulatory approval in the United States, Great Britain, China, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards for nuclear power plants.
Georgia Power completed hot functional testing at the Vogtle 4 nuclear reactor. Hot function testing began in March, and its completion indicates that the reactor is now ready for fuel loading. Georgia Power said its team will now focus on completing the remaining work necessary to submit documentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that all inspection, tests, and analyses have been performed before the unit’s planned commission later this year.
The North Carolina State Senate unanimously endorsed a measure that would open the door to new nuclear development in the state. The Promote Clean Energy Bill would replace the term “renewable energy” in statutory language with “clean energy”, adding nuclear power to the new term’s definition. The current language of North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard specifically excludes nuclear, along with fossil fuels.
The Department of Energy (DoE) released an update of its search process to consider impacts on disadvantaged and overburdened communities. The DoE has been engaged in consent-based siting to coordinate with communities to host interim nuclear waste storage facilities and help reduce health and safety impacts on various communities. The recent update reflects public comments provided in response to a request for information in 2021.
According to a new Gallup poll, 55% of U.S. adults surveyed say they either strongly or somewhat favor the use of nuclear energy, with another 44% of Americans opposing such use. The support for nuclear power has increased from the previous Gallup poll last year, with Americans’ support for the use of nuclear power differing by party affiliation, gender, and education level.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted unanimously to regulate the nuclear fusion industry differently than the fission industry. As a result, some provisions specific to fission reactors, like requiring funding to cover claims from nuclear meltdowns, won’t apply to fusion plants. Other differences include looser requirements around ownership of nuclear fusion plants and the dispensing of mandatory hearings at the federal level during the licensing process.
Monticello city officials say independent tests have found the city’s drinking water is safe following a leak at the nearby Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. The test results showed all samples of the city’s water had tritium levels well below federal health limits. Xcel Energy shut down the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant last month to repair the water leak, with state officials saying monitoring wells showed the contamination hadn’t left the plant site.
Noteworthy Research
The Atlantic Council released a report arguing that the United States will lose its competitive edge against adversaries if it lacks a fully realized nuclear energy innovation ecosystem. This report explores the singular role the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) would play in ensuring that a new generation of safer, more efficient reactors can contribute towards emissions reductions, energy security, and economic growth. The report also provides an explanation of the need for the VTR in a global nuclear marketplace, concluding with a set of policy recommendations for building the VTR and capitalizing on the knowledge of national laboratories and nuclear scientists to support a domestic nuclear energy ecosystem.

The National Conference of State Legislatures produced a report on nuclear power and its role in the clean energy transition. It recommended several state-level policies to encourage the continued operation of existing plants and to advance the development of advanced reactors. Some suggestions are utilizing zero emissions credits, adjusting the regulatory framework and priorities for public utility commissions, using Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) financing, and replacing renewable portfolio standards with clean energy standards to include nuclear power.
The Nuclear Conversation
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 3
NM Political Report, May 3
Power Mag, May 1
The New York Times, April 28
Oil Price, April 28
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 27
MIT Technology Review, April 27
The San Diego Union-Tribune, April 27
Reason, April 26
Financial Review, April 25
CNN, April 24
Forbes, April 24
Inverse, April 24
Utility Dive, April 24
Louisiana Illuminator, April 23
The National Interest, April 21
Forbes, April 20
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Alex de Ramon, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security
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.