In this week’s newsletter, we assess the importance of next-gen nuclear power for the clean energy transition and what is required for its next phase. We spotlight the recent cancellation of the proposed NuScale small modular reactor project in Idaho, as well as compiling comments from nuclear officials and experts. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Reality Fractures the Next-Gen Nuclear Fairy Tale
The cratering of the NuScale Power-UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project is not the end of the world for next-generation nuclear energy. But it is the end of the fairy tale phase.
So much hot air was being blown into the next-gen nuclear narrative that it was inevitable the balloon would burst when it rubbed up against real world conditions.
Nuclear power is not some kind of energy technology superhero that can save the day through the deployment of social media memes.
It is costly to license and deploy. New designs are technologically challenging. Reactors need to be proven safe and secure. Inflation and interest rates take their toll on project costs.
But nuclear energy, new and existing, is an essential response to the global clean energy transition and it needs to be scaled up.
That was underscored by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, who unequivocally stated last week that “Nuclear is 100% part of the solution” and that “It’s clean energy.”
A dramatic testament to this reality is an anticipated declaration at the upcoming global climate conference, COP 28, by the U.S., U.K. France, Finland, Sweden, and South Korea to triple nuclear capacity by 2050.
The pledge may also call on the World Bank and other international finance institutions to lend money for nuclear projects. This would be a seismic shift in international energy finance policy if it occurs.
The high profile backing of nuclear power as a significant climate solution by major economic powers also will sweep significant change into the culture of the COP, which has been closely associated with renewable energy as the primary response to carbon reduction.
This shift in emphasis may radiate out to developing economy nations that are seriously considering the value of nuclear energy for their countries. Many are grappling with climate ravages, population increases, intensified urbanization, and a deep dependence on fossil fuels.
But most of these nations are unprepared for nuclear operation. They do not have an adequate technical educational structure, trained workforce, or the institutional experience to support a nuclear power program. They need significant support in all these areas.
Russia and China may not be invited to sign the COP nuclear pledge, but they will be waiting in the wings to market their advanced nuclear technologies to these nations.
They have the advantage of being able to offer technical and operational support and easy credit. They already have established deep energy and infrastructure cooperation roots in key regions, and they will exploit these advantages to the disadvantage of the U.S. and its allies.
So far, the U.S. and its partners have been running a multi-billion dollar next-gen nuclear technology development effort, hoping for deployable new reactors. But they don’t seem to have an effective and integrated nuclear export and market domination strategy, or if they do it’s hard to find.
These western countries have not devoted a fraction of the required resources to assess and develop the international market for the next-gen reactors they are readying for deployment.

They haven’t figured out how and when to cooperate rather than compete with one another for market share. And they have not developed the international guidance that will be required to effectively govern next-gen nuclear use.
Governments need to look over the horizon and create a complete runway for success of the technologies they are developing. International market cultivation, global security guidelines, licensing reform, and more effective approaches to export financing are the needed next phase of the nuclear expansion process.
If the U.S. and its nuclear pledge allies want a substantial share of the international next-gen nuclear power market, they will have to do more than talk up the value proposition. Because hard realities just fractured the first-of-a-kind fairy tale.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security 

NuScale Power and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have agreed to terminate the Carbon-Free Power Project. The CFPP was designed to use power produced by six of NuScale’s VOYGR small modular reactors. These units were slated to be built in Idaho to provide carbon-free power to a consortium of small utilities in the western U.S.
A joint statement from NuScale and UAMPS noted that that the project was unlikely to generate enough subscriptions from the utility members to remain viable. A key factor was the rise in the cost of the project and its power output despite significant contributions from the U.S. government to support it. The price escalation was influenced by a number of factors.
The CFPP was a first-of-its-kind U.S. effort to use clean energy from SMRs to replace reliance on fossil fuels. This made it a strong symbol of the potential for next-generation nuclear energy to contribute to the clean energy transition. It also made it a lightning rod for criticism from nuclear power skeptics and opponents.
Because of the uniqueness, significance, and policy implications of the CFPP project and its termination, PGS has developed an extensive, but not exhaustive, list of stories and comments on this matter that span a range of viewpoints.
News Articles
Statements by Nuclear Officials and Experts
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant, a part of Google, reported that Russian cyber spies were behind a hack in late 2022 that disrupted part of Ukraine’s power grid. The group behind the attack, known by the moniker “Sandworm” has been previously identified as a cyberwarfare unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency. The attack, carried out simultaneously with Russian missile strikes, caused a power cut by tripping circuit breakers at an electrical substation. The resulting outage left approximately 255,000 people without power and showcases the vulnerability of energy infrastructure to these kinds of attacks.

In his latest report on the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, IAEA Director General Grossi stated that IAEA staff were continuing to pay close attention to the maintenance activities at the site. Since being captured by Russian forces, the number of employees working at the plant has been reduced to almost a third of pre-invasion numbers. Grossi stated that the reduced number of maintenance staff and the limited availability of necessary spare parts has the potential to impact the operation of safety systems. This comes as an additional unit at the plant is brought into a state of hot shutdown, despite calls from the Ukrainian State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate and the IAEA continue to call for all 6 units to remain in cold shutdown.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff stated that U.S. reliance on Russian nuclear fuel poses a critical threat to national security and climate goals. This statement comes as the Biden administration is urging Congress to provide funds to rebuild its domestic supply chain and restrict imports from Russia, as it currently controls almost 50% of global enrichment capacity. Despite this initiative, Washington has yet to sanction Rosatom or prevent the company from selling nuclear fuel and enrichment services to the United States and other Western nuclear power plant operators.
Nuclear Collaborations
At the COP28 climate summit, the United States and the United Kingdom may pledge to triple the amount of installed nuclear power capacity globally by 2050. The declaration will call on the World Bank and other international financial institutions to include nuclear energy in their leading policies, with the countries recognizing the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Other countries that will likely be part of the pledge include France, Sweden, Finland, and South Korea.

Switzerland plans to keep its nuclear power plants in use longer than previously expected over fears of electricity shortages. Operators Axpo Holding AG and Alpiq Holding AG have boosted the planned lifespan of their plants to 60 years, which would see their nuclear power plants operating until around 2040. Alpiq is also studying the impacts on safety and profitability of a further extension to as many as 80 years. Switzerland previously decided to exit nuclear power in 2017 but has yet to set a date to shut down its four operational nuclear plants.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy announced that Energoatom and Holtec International are planning to build a plant in Ukraine to produce spent nuclear fuel containers. This is building on plans between the two companies to build a plant to manufacture equipment for Holtec’s small modular reactors (SMRs). The companies plan to make use of Ukraine’s Centralized Spent Fuel Storage Facility that was commissioned last year and is designed to have a total storage capacity of 16,530 used fuel assemblies.

The United States and the United Kingdom announced a new partnership in fusion technology during a meeting between U.S. and British officials in Washington. The new partnership will see fusion scientists on both sides collaborate on research and development, share knowledge, and provide access to fusion facilities. Thousands of scientists and engineers have been working on nuclear fusion for decades, which has the potential to produce vast amounts of energy that can be used to combat the ongoing climate crisis. A major breakthrough came in late 2022 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California when it achieved a “net energy gain” during fusion testing.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó and Rosatom’s Director General Alexei Likhachev signed an agreement on the schedule for the construction of the Paks II Nuclear Power Plant. Although the details of the agreed schedule were not officially released, Szijjártó stated that the two sides plan to connect the new power plant to Hungary’s electric grid at the beginning of the next decade. Hungary is pressing ahead with the Russian-designed nuclear power plant project despite other European Union countries cutting or reducing their energy links with Russia.

Rolls-Royce SMR and BAM Infra Nederland, a Dutch construction company, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to support the deployment of a fleet of Rolls-Royce small modular reactors (SMRs) in the Netherlands. This MoU builds upon other collaborative agreements that Rolls-Royce SMR had signed previously with ULC-Energy, a company founded in 2021 with aims to accelerate decarbonization in the Netherlands, in August 2022. According to ULC-Energy, a single 470 MWe Rolls-Royce SMR could provide enough electricity for 1.4 million Dutch Households.

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) signed a cooperation agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) to study the potential deployment of one or more Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) energy systems in the Philippines. Under the agreement, USNC will conduct a pre-feasibility study that will run for four months to familiarize Meralco with MMR systems and how they can be effectively utilized in the Philippines. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris also recently met with Philippine President Bongbong Marcos to discuss the conclusion of a 123 civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

During a visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev agreed in a joint declaration to promote enhanced trade and cooperation in nuclear energy and on strategic minerals. Kazatomprom and Framatome also signed an agreement on cooperation in the nuclear fuel cycle because of this visit. During his visit to Uzbekistan the next day, Macron and Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to raise their bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership.

The IAEA and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed to enhance their cooperation around the transport of radioactive materials by air with the aim of improving the speed and efficiency of these shipments. In a joint statement, IAEA Director General Grossi and ICAO Secretary General Salazar said that the agreement “highlights the importance of adherence to the IAEA safety standards for safe use of radioactive materials and to ICAO standards for global civil aviation safety and security”. The joint statement highlighted that stronger cooperation will create a conducive environment for countries to harness the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

The European Commission will establish an Industrial Alliance dedicated to small modular reactors (SMR) in 2024 in response to calls from the nuclear industry, safety regulators, and the research community. The Commission previously set up a European SMR pre-partnership in June 2023 with the objective of identifying enabling conditions and constraints towards safe design, construction, and operation of SMRs in Europe in the next decade and beyond. European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson stated that the analyses undertaken by the pre-partnership suggest that an industrial alliance is the appropriate concept for the European SMR partnership.

Five government and private entities have formed a partnership to collaborate on the development, demonstration, and commercialization of lead-cooled small modular reactors (SMRs). Belgium’s SCK-CEN nuclear research center, Italy’s ENEA and Ansaldo Nucleare, Romania’s TATEN, and Westinghouse Electric Company signed a memorandum of understanding in Brussels to form a consortium to speed up development of SMR-LFRs. The starting point of the project will be the LFR design developed by Westinghouse with an end goal of global commercialization.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Norwegian nuclear company Norsk Kjernekraft submitted a proposal to Norway’s ministry of oil and energy for an assessment of the construction of a power plant based on multiple small modular reactors (SMR) in the municipalities of Aure and Heim. According to a preliminary, the plant will be built in a common industrial area and could be operational within 10 years. Norsk Kjernekraft previously signed a collaboration agreement with Rolls-Royce SMR to establish future projects that could lead to the development of Rolls-Royce SMRs in Norway.

Swedish electric services company Vattenfall is applying to the municipality of Varberg for a detailed plan to enable the construction of new reactors next to the existing Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant. Last year, Vattenfall initiated a pilot study to assess the conditions for at least two small modular reactors (SMR) adjacent to the Ringhals facility. Vattenfall’s application comes as the Swedish government announced it has commissioned an investigator to analyze how to streamline the permitting processes for nuclear reactors.

South Korean engineering firm Doosan Enerbility signed a contract with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power to carry out the overall design of a used fuel dry storage system. The contract will see Doosan Enerbility complete the design work and obtain certification by 2027 for the dry storage system. According to Doosan, the nuclear industry estimates that some 2,800 casks will be needed for storage and interim storage in South Korea’s nuclear market.

Japan’s National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology announced that it achieved the first plasma at its JT-60SA nuclear tokamak, a major milestone for Japanese nuclear fusion testing. The JT-60SA is now the biggest tokamak to reach first plasma anywhere in the world, although the facility’s primary purpose is to build the larger ITER tokamak that is currently in production and scheduled to achieve its first plasma in December 2025.

After talks between Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó and Romania Energy Minister Sebastian Burduja, Hungary announced that Romania would allow the transport of Russian nuclear fuel to the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. The nuclear fuel, which was originally transported by train via Ukraine, will be ferried from Russia to Bulgaria, where it will be loaded onto trains and be transported to Hungary via Romania. Szijjártó also announced that they had agreed to further increase the capacity of the natural gas connection between the two countries.

The IAEA completed its five-day Site and External Events Design (SEED) mission to Kazakhstan to review the country’s process for selecting the site of a planned nuclear power plant. The IAEA team found no evidence of safety-related issues associated with exclusion criteria and suggested that Kazakhstan carry out a limited additional data collection campaign to minimize the general risk that potential safety issues might surface at a later stage. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy has proposed the potential reintroduction of nuclear power to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Kazakh uranium company Kazatomprom released its quarterly update. The first update was that sanctions on the transport of products through Russian territory has not restricted Kazatomprom activities, with 58% of uranium shipped to Western countries going through the alternative Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) in the first half of 2023. Additionally, the year-to-date production of uranium is currently at 15,317 tons of uranium (tU). Kazatomprom shareholders also approved a major sale of natural uranium concentrates to China’s State Nuclear Uranium Resource Development Company (SNURDC).

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant’s new power unit and held talks with Slovakia’s president and prime minister. Grossi congratulated President Zuzana Caputova on the success of Slovakia’s nuclear program and the recent commissioning of the third unit at Mochovce. In total, Slovakia currently has five operational power reactors at two nuclear power plants. Once Mochovce’s fourth unit is complete, the country is expected to produce 70% of its electricity through nuclear energy.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio made its first delivery of more than 20 kilograms of high-assay, low-enriched uranium to the Department of Energy, marking the end of the first phase of the cost-share agreement between the two parties. Centrus will now move ahead with the next phase, which will see the American Centrifuge Plant enter full production at 900 kilograms of HALEU per year. Centrus added that with sufficient funding and offtake commitments, it could significantly expand production to a full cascade of 120 centrifuge machines and produce some 6,000 kilograms of HALEU per year.
PG&E has filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend the licenses of its two reactors at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant for 20 years. The NRC’s review of PG&E’s application for a license extension is expected to take a minimum of 2-3 years, with the current licenses expected to expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. Diablo Canyon is the only commercial nuclear power station in California and has seen both support from Governor Gavin Newsom and opposition from environmental activists.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker will sign a new bill lifting Illinois’ moratorium on the construction of new nuclear reactors after the state’s lawmakers passed new legislation that will allow for the construction of small modular reactors from 2026. Among other things, the new bill instructs the Illinois Emergency Management and Office of Homeland Security to adopt rules for the regulation of small modular reactors, including rules regarding decommissioning and emergency preparedness. Illinois currently has 11 nuclear reactors that supply more than half of the state’s electricity.
The State Department announced that the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC) will be renamed as the Bureau for Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability (ADS). The new name reflects the full scope of the Bureau’s long-standing work and its role in addressing new challenges posed by emerging security technologies and domains. ADS leads the State Department’s efforts on developing, negotiating, implementing, and verifying compliance with a range of arms control and disarmament agreements and arrangements.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded $33.7 million to Lockheed Martin as part of the Joint Emergent Technology Supplying On-Orbit Nuclear (JETSON) effort to create nuclear power and propulsion technologies for U.S. spacecraft. On JETSON, Lockheed Martin will work with SpaceNukes and BWXT on the preliminary design review stage for a nuclear-propelled spacecraft. JETSON aims to launch a fission reactor that will be started up once in space so it can generate heat and electricity.
The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is coordinating with eight other nuclear advocacy groups to ask Congress to update the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) generic standards for the safe, permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste. The organizations asked leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to direct the EPA to revise its standards under Title 40, Part 191 of the Code of Federal Regulations to harmonize it with international practices for commercial SNF disposal.
Noteworthy Research
Researchers at Princeton University’s Science and Global Security (SGS) Program published a study finding that there would be 300 million casualties across North America if the United States’ nuclear silos were ever attacked. The study states that U.S. silos are the most vulnerable nuclear weapons system in the country because the locations are fixed and have been since the 1960s. Additionally, the SGS project includes a website with interactive maps to allow people to track how much nuclear fallout their area might receive. 450 missile silos exist in just five U.S. States, with 400 of them loaded with nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) released a report documenting the estimated global nuclear warhead inventories in 2023. According to the report, 9 countries possess roughly 12,500 warheads, with approximately 89% of the world’s inventory of nuclear weapons owned by the United States and Russia. The overall inventory of nuclear weapons has decreased within the last 30 years, but the number of warheads in global military stockpiles has increased. Instead of planning for nuclear disarmament, nuclear-armed states appear to plan to retain large arsenals for the indefinite future.

The United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency completed a project piloting a nuclear regulatory sandbox process, using artificial intelligence as the test case. ONR convened an expert panel on the regulation of AI, which identified two applications of AI in the nuclear sector that could be further explored in a regulatory sandbox. The report concluded that AI is starting to enter the nuclear sector with substantial investment, and AI could be used in the nuclear industry to simulate reactor behavior and inform reactor design, performance, safety, and operation.

The U.S. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners released a new report, Nuclear Generation in Long-Term Utility Resource Planning, which analyzes 17 integrated resource plan (IRP) filings to identify important trends regarding nuclear energy for consideration by state utility regulators. In this report, the authors identify three overarching trends from their analyses: the majority of regulated utilities are aware of advanced nuclear technologies, several utilities have explicitly included advanced nuclear in their IRPs, and most utilities propose keeping existing nuclear resources online to maintain reliability of electricity supplies. These findings are meant to help state regulators consider the current and future role of nuclear energy in generation portfolios for utilities across the United States.

The United Kingdom’s Fusion Cluster published a report, Growing the Fusion Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities for the Future. The report’s key findings include that it is difficult to predict how many roles will be required within the nuclear fusion workforce, the nature of the workforce’s challenges evolves over the long-term, and a targeted communication plan is essential to entice potential recruits and highlight the rapid progress being made in nuclear fusion studies. The Fusion Cluster represents about 200 companies and organizations in the nuclear fusion sector.
The Nuclear Conversation
The Daily Signal, November 15
Real Clear Energy, November 14
Argonne National Laboratory, November 13
Axios, November 13
The New York Times, November 13
Smart Energy International, November 13
The New York Times, November 12
Energy Central, November 11
Bloomberg, November 10
E&E Daily, November 9
Forbes, November 8
Real Clear Energy, November 8
Texas Standard, November 8
The National Interest, November 6
Utility Dive, November 6
The Washington Times, November 6
The Breakthrough Institute, November 2
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Michael Sway, 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.