In this week’s issue, we discuss the folly and growing dangers posed by the continuing U.S.-South Korea nuclear export conflict. We spotlight Westinghouse’s statement that it intends to prevent South Korea from competing in major overseas nuclear power markets if it wins its intellectual property lawsuit. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
U.S. and Korea are Bungling the Nuclear Export Opportunity
The U.S. and South Korea are in the process of blowing a once-in-a-century opportunity to wrest control of the global nuclear market from Russia and prevent China from taking its place. The clean energy and international security consequences of a blunder are very high. But both countries seem content to continue at full speed with their head-on collision.
The major nuclear industries of both countries have symbiotic technology and supply chain relationships. But they are now pitted against one another in what seems to be a winner-take-all competition in the expanding large reactor markets of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The most recent danger signal is a statement from the president of energy systems at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, America’s major reactor company. He states that if Westinghouse wins the lawsuit it recently filed against Korea’s two major nuclear companies over intellectual property it asserts are in the Korean reactor, “then I do not see them building these [Korean] reactors either in Poland or in the Czech Republic or Saudi Arabia.”
There are three significant problems with this position.
First, Westinghouse and the South Korean companies, KEPCO and KHNP, are mutually dependent on bilateral supply chains for their reactors. There was about $2 billion in Westinghouse content in the four reactors South Korea built in the United Arab Emirates. Whether this content is now indigenously produced by the Koreans or still controlled by Westinghouse is the issue at the center of the lawsuit.
The latest flashpoint is Poland, which recently selected the Westinghouse AP-1000 as the first reactors to be built in the country. The financial details are still to be worked out and could be contentious. But additional reactors could be the Korean APR-1400 model deployed at a separate site. Both countries also are competing for the reactor business of the Czech Republic.
The implication of the Westinghouse official’s statement is that his company may withhold the provision of its technology to the Korean reactors if it wins its legal case. This, hopefully, is an overinterpretation of the statement. But is difficult to decipher an alternative conclusion. Of course, in this interdependent world, it is senseless to have a nuclear supply trade war especially among strong allies.
And Westinghouse has its own supply chain vulnerabilities. It is dependent on Korean suppliers, including for major reactor components. That technology could be withheld from the Korean side in retribution. Perhaps in anticipation of this, the Westinghouse president stated, “We intend to have…a local European supply chain servicing all of those projects.” That could be a challenge. And pushing the Koreans into a corner doesn’t make sense.
Already, in its search for new overseas nuclear business, KHNP, has signed a $2 billion deal with a Russian state-controlled nuclear firm to assist with the construction of the El-Dabaa nuclear plant in Egypt. That is not a partnership that the U.S. should want to encourage or see expand if it is trying to limit Russia’s nuclear exports.
Further, the Korean government is irritated by new U.S. legislation that excludes foreign-assembled electric vehicles from a tax credit. This will disadvantage Korean car manufacturers in an expanding market and the Korean government has hinted that it may conflict with international trade agreements. The Westinghouse statement likely looks like more U.S. protectionism and provocation to South Korean officials and companies.
The second issue with the Westinghouse assertion of control over the nuclear markets in Poland, Czech Republic, and Saudi Arabia, is that the company is not on the list of invited vendors for the Saudi reactors. The Saudi regime intentionally left it off the most recent list while soliciting bids from South Korea, France, Russia, and China for its two reactors.
Westinghouse cannot deliver any reactors to the kingdom without a U.S.-Saudi nuclear cooperation agreement. That deal was a longshot before the Saudi’s bucked the Biden administration on oil production this fall. And the bipartisan animosity in Washington toward the kingdom continues to ratchet higher, making congressional approval of any potential deal questionable.
The performance of the Korean companies in building four reactors in the UAE has made an impact on Saudi officials and they may favor Korean reactors as a result. There already is a Korea-Saudi partnership on small modular reactors. This is the root of the corporate legal fight. The Korean companies do not want to be hindered in selling reactors to Saudi Arabia by American export controls. So, they have asserted that there is no content in the reactors that is subject to U.S. reach.
But if Westinghouse wins its case and blocks Korea from being able to sell its reactors to Saudi Arabia, the likely alternative is that China will win the business. Saudi and Chinese officials have been in discussions on nuclear and other energy cooperation as tensions with the U.S. have intensified.
There is no scenario where it is in the interest of U.S. national security for China to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. That provides China with a scalable nuclear export foothold in the Middle East, cements an 80 to 100-year Saudi-China nuclear energy relationship, undermines high non-proliferation standards, and forces the U.S. to peer through a spy glass to see what other technologies, including uranium enrichment, may come with the deal.
So, if Westinghouse blocks the Korean bid in the kingdom, and the business goes to China or Russia, that is a net negative for U.S. and global security. Full stop.
Third, the U.S. has agreed at two presidential summits with two different Korean leaders to cooperate on nuclear exports to third countries and to adhere to high non-proliferation standards. Summit level commitments are often ephemeral but the pledge by Westinghouse to prevent Korean access to key markets seems a blatant contradiction of a U.S. presidential commitment and a blow to American credibility.
The question, then, is whether the U.S. and Korean governments are doing anything to head off this very obvious looming disaster. Some reports indicate that the Korean government wants to “minimize” this disagreement. But they’ve been ineffective at finding a solution for over three years and the hazards of inaction have only grown higher.
There is no doubt that the American government is happy about the decision of Poland to choose Westinghouse technology after all it has done to cultivate that deal. And there is undoubtedly bureaucratic epicaricacy at having beaten the Koreans after they beat the U.S. in the UAE.
But the stakes in this dispute have grown much more serious as the role of nuclear power has evolved in recent years. There is a rush away from Russian fossil fuels toward nuclear energy in Central and Eastern Europe. There is a growing role for nuclear energy in global decarbonization as evidenced by the expanding nuclear industry presence at COP 27. There is, for the first time in decades, the opportunity to keep Russia down and China out in the expanding civil nuclear market of this century.
But instead of finding a way to create a powerful democratic-nation nuclear export coalition that can serve all these needs, there is corporate divisiveness, division among two critical allies, and a distinct lack of political leadership that is fumbling away a huge opportunity.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

After securing the contract to build Poland’s first nuclear power units, Westinghouse is looking to secure additional reactor business in Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East while blocking South Korea’s reactor exports to these regions. Westinghouse president of energy systems, David Durham, reiterated that Westinghouse has initiated a lawsuit against South Korea’s KHNP and KEPCO to prevent the “unauthorized” sharing with other countries of nuclear technology that the company asserts it owns. He stated, “I think we have to let the litigation play out. [But] if we win as we expect, then I do not see them [Korea] building these reactors either in Poland or in the Czech Republic or Saudi Arabia.” An analysis of the implications of this statement is available at Neutron Bytes.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
The IAEA carried out a joint safeguards and nuclear security expert mission at the Kharkiv Institute of Technology (KIPT) in Ukraine. The aim of the mission was to assess the extent of the damage to the KIPT site as a result of heavy shelling hitting the facility and to see whether these attacks have impacted its physical protection system. The IAEA’s mission observed significant damage to the site, with nearly all of the buildings of the site affected. However, there is no indication of radiological release or diversion of declared nuclear material.
Following Russia’s accusations that Ukraine is building a radioactive “dirty bomb”, inspectors from the IAEA checked 3 Ukrainian facilities and said they found no evidence of undeclared nuclear activity. Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory body invited the IAEA to visit three locations included in Russia’s allegations to disprove Moscow’s claims.
The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station was disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid again by Russian shelling. Ukraine’s Energoatom said the last remaining high voltage lines connecting the plant to the Ukrainian grid were damaged and that Russian forces wanted to connect the plant to the Russian grid. Although the six reactors are currently shut down, they still need a constant supply of electricity to keep the nuclear fuel inside cool and prevent a meltdown. A few days later, both the plant’s external power lines were repaired and reconnection started on November 3.
According to Finland’s energy company Fortum, Finland is set to continue using Russian nuclear fuel at the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant until as late as 2030. Fortum director Katti Kattainen said that the company is operating in line with its current supplier contract with Rosatom subsidiary TVEL, declining to comment further on when it could stop the use of Russian fuel. The company also stated earlier this year that the fuel supplier for its contract cannot be swapped overnight due to certificate requirements and licensing processes.
Despite Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Russia dispatched one of the six giant magnets needed for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) nuclear fusion program in France. The magnet built under Rosatom’s supervision was supposed to leave in May, but sanctions forbidding Russian ships docking in Europe delayed the departure. The magnet will make up the top part of France’s tokamak magnetic fusion device.
Nuclear Collaborations
Poland has chosen the Westinghouse Electric Corporation to build the country’s first nuclear power plants. The deal is for the first three reactors at the planned Pomerania site. Polish officials say the reactors should start producing electricity in 2033. Poland had also considered offers from French utility EDF and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).
Two days after the Westinghouse announcement, Poland and South Korea’s governments, as well as 2 Polish companies and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), signed a letter of intent  to develop plans for a nuclear power plant in Patnow. The three companies agreed to jointly prepare a plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant based on KHNP’s APR1400 reactor technology. The letter suggests a preliminary plan would be drawn up by the end of the year.
Following Poland’s recent deal with Westinghouse, French utility Electricite de France (EDF) vice president Vakis Ramany announced that EDF and the French government will renew its integrated EPR-based offer to Poland. In a recent interview, Ramany argued that EPR technology and EDF remain the “best fit and the best chance” for Poland and other European nuclear power programs to achieve their electricity and security objectives.
On the sidelines of the COP27 Climate Summit, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged “ambitious cooperation” in the field of nuclear energy to cope with the impact of the ongoing energy crisis. This marked their first meeting since Sunak became prime minister last month. Earlier, there had been reports that the U.K. may have been reviewing the decision to build the Sizewell C nuclear plant which will be developed by France’s EDF but the Prime Minister’s office denied those stories.
French electric utility company Electricite de France (EDF) signed a binding agreement with General Electric to acquire GE Steam Power’s nuclear activities, which include the production of conventional island equipment for new nuclear power facilities. The deal also includes steam turbine technology for future nuclear plants such as the European pressurized reactors and small modular reactors (SMR). Completion of the deal is expected to take place in the second half of 2023.
Canadian mining company Cameco announced the signing of a uranium supply agreement with China Nuclear International Corporation. Although terms and details of the supply agreement have not been disclosed publicly, the contract volumes will comprise part of the 50 million pounds that Cameco has added to its long-term uranium contract portfolio so far this year.
South Korea’s largest shipbuilder, Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE), has signed a $30 million investment contract with TerraPower to expand investment in next-generation nuclear technologies. KSOE has discussed its partnership with TerraPower since the beginning of the year, planning to explore new business opportunities using the group’s technical prowess in nuclear energy and innovative technologies. KSOE has shown particular interest in offshore nuclear power plants and nuclear marine propulsion.
The United States and the United Arab Emirates announced the signing of a strategic partnership that will see $100 billion mobilized to develop 100 gigawatts of clean energy by 2035. The Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE) encompasses four main pillars, including developing clean energy innovation and supply chains, and nuclear energy. The two countries will set up an expert group to identify priority projects, remove potential hurdles, and measure PACE’s progress.
The United States-Mexico Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, also known as the 123 Agreement, has entered into force. The agreement provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Mexico based on a mutual commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. This is an extension of the previous 123 Agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and Mexico.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
At this year’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt, supporters of nuclear energy seek to argue in favor of nuclear energy’s ability to offer a safe and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions. The IAEA and its partners will host over 40 events at the IAEA #Atoms4Climate pavilion, highlighting the role of nuclear science and technology solutions for climate change mitigation. Nuclear for Climate, which represents a network of 150 associations that embrace nuclear power as part of the climate solution, also has a strong presence at the conference.
The Canadian federal government has included small modular reactors (SMR) among clean energy technologies eligible for a new investment tax credit, signaling that Canada will consider nuclear power to be clean energy. As proposed, the investment tax credit is expected to cost $5 billion over five years, starting in 2023. The update also includes up to CAD 1.28 billion ($953 million) over six years for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to increase their capacity and improve the efficiency of their assessments.
According to Poland’s Development and Technology Minister, Waldemar Buda, nuclear power will ultimately make up 30 to 35% of Poland’s energy mix while the rest will mostly come from renewable energy sources. Buda added that Poland expects this change to occur within the next 12 years. Poland is planning for its first reactor to start working in 2033. Subsequent reactors will be constructed every two years.
French utility Electricite de France (EDF) discovered a radioactive leak in the primary cooling circuit of its Civaux nuclear plant, but added that there was no radioactivity measured outside the plant. The Civaux reactor has been shut down since August 2021 for scheduled maintenance, and the leak could further delay the reactor’s planned restart in January 2023. EDF had to recently lower its 2022 nuclear output forecast again to 275-285 terawatt hours due to the impact of strikes and ongoing corrosion problems.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) proposed extending the maximum operating life of nuclear reactors beyond the current 60 years through additional safety inspections. Under current rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, the operating life of a nuclear reactor is limited to 40 years, with a 20 year extension possible following inspections. The NRA is expected to reflect the change in a draft revision of the Nuclear Reactor regulation Law by the end of the year.
Workers from Russia’s Rosatom subsidiary Ural Atomenergoremont (UralAER) have completed an overhaul of major components at unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant. The sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plants such as Beloyarsk are part of Rosatom’s “Breakthrough” project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel will be reprocessed and recycled.
Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob said that there will need to be a referendum to get public approval for a second reactor at the Krsko nuclear power plant. His statement added that once a reactor “of Western origin” had been selected for the new unit, the government will proceed to seek national consent for the needed investments. The Slovenian government has said that a construction decision will be taken by the end of 2027.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) submitted its application for a license to construct a small modular reactor (SMR) at its Darlington site. The License to Construct application was developed collaboratively between OPG and GE Hitachi, the designer of the BWRX-300 SMR model. The Darlington site is the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new reactor build, with site preparation planned to continue into 2025.
The Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA) made the decision to allow construction to start on the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant’s second reactor unit. El-Dabaa 2 will be the second Russian-designed VVER-1200 unit at the site, complete with a lifetime of Russian nuclear fuel and facilities for used fuel storage. The construction license is to be officially issued later this month.
The French government has drafted legislation to streamline bureaucracy for administrative permits needed to build new nuclear power plants, as France aims to double down on its nuclear and renewable energy facilities. France’s nuclear fleet has come under scrutiny, with a wave of repairs at power stations sending nuclear power production to a 30-year low. President Emmanuel Macron has put nuclear power at the heart of the country’s drive for carbon neutrality by 2050, with plans to build at least six new reactors in that timespan.
Cracks have been identified in all four of the feedwater pumps of the Olkiluoto-3 reactor in Finland. Operator Teollisuuden Voima Ovi (TVO) announced that damage had been discovered in the internals of the feedwater pumps located in the plant’s turbine island. Olkiluoto-3 is currently in an ongoing test production phase and is currently scheduled to start regular electricity production in December. TVO said it does not yet know the impact this development will have on the schedule for the plant’s commissioning.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The U.S. Department of Energy announced a $150 million cost-shared award with American Centrifuge Operating to demonstrate the ability to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). The award includes a $30 million cost share during the first year to start up and operate 16 advanced centrifuges in a cascade at an enrichment facility in Ohio. The goal is for American Centrifuge Operation’s facility to produce 900 kilograms of HALEU per year starting in 2024. The Department of Energy projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed before the end of the decade to deploy the planned fleet of advanced reactors.
House Republicans will tout nuclear power and natural gas at the COP 27 Climate Summit in Egypt. According to Representative John Curtis, House Republicans believe that nuclear and natural gas are essential to meeting global climate goals and that their position has been validated by the ongoing energy crisis in Europe. On the other side of the debate, Democrats and climate activists plan to continue their support for renewable energy at the climate summit.
The Biden administration is providing $1.55 billion under the Inflation Reduction Act to upgrade facilities and modernize infrastructure at national laboratories which undertake nuclear research and innovation. The funding will accelerate ongoing facility upgrade projects and infrastructure upgrades in areas such as advanced scientific computing research facilities, fusion energy science, and nuclear physics construction. Facilities being funded include the Argonne National Laboratory, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Idaho National Laboratory.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $6.1 million to Oklo Inc. to enable the recycling of used nuclear fuel from the current light water reactor fleet into advanced reactor fuel. Oklo will work in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Deep Isolation, and Case Western Reserve University. The fund comes from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Utility giant PacifiCorp will join nuclear energy developer TerraPower to study the potential for advanced reactors to be located near current fossil-fuel generation sites in Wyoming and Utah. PacifiCorp is considering co-locating six small modular reactors (SMR) at locations planning to retire coal-fired power plants. Before choosing locations, both companies will engage with local communities.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) submitted its application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting to continue operating the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant until 2030. California lawmakers voted in September to keep the power plant running beyond 2025. The plan approved by legislators includes a $1.4 billion loan to PG&E to relicense the plant.
Constellation Energy Corporation is seeking to extend the operating licenses of its Clinton and Dresden nuclear power plants in Illinois by an additional 20 years. If approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), this would enable Clinton’s reactor to continue operating until 2047 and Dresden’s two reactors until 2051. The company expects to file both license applications with the NRC in 2024.
Noteworthy Research
According to a new report by the Center for ESG and Sustainability (CESG), in partnership with Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, nuclear energy is a strong performer when analyzed against environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. ESG refers to non-financial criteria used by financiers when screening their investments for sustainability. Nuclear energy’s resilience during extreme weather events, ability to support local economies with high-paying jobs, and positive engagement with nearby communities makes it a solid performer against social factors, the report noted. Additionally, nuclear energy has a carbon-free footprint and generates reliable power with less land and water usage than other energy generators.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published an unclassified version of its annual report to Congress detailing the prior year’s security inspection program. The report provides information regarding the overall security and safeguards performance of the commercial nuclear power industry and Category 1 fuel cycle facilities. In 2021, the NRC conducted 176 security inspections at commercial nuclear power plants and Category 1 fuel cycle facilities. The goal of the annual report is to keep Congress and the public informed of the NRC’s efforts to oversee the protection of the nation’s civilian nuclear power infrastructure and strategic special nuclear material.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Yeseul Woo, 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.