In this week’s issue, we discuss the positive wave of support for the nuclear-climate nexus that occurred around COP26. We also spotlight the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s passage into law, providing almost $8.5 billion in funding for advanced reactors and the existing nuclear fleet. Finally, we cover a joint report that cites financial and environmental motives for preventing the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California.
The Quiet Victory of the Nuclear-Climate Nexus
The hot air machine at the Glasgow climate conference has mercifully been shut off after running on overdrive for two weeks. In its wake one of the quietest but most significant achievements was the elevation of the nuclear-climate nexus.
The challenge in this victory is to quickly and effectively pivot from the prior quest for nuclear-climate validation to a next-phase strategy supporting the timely, cost effective, and secure delivery of new nuclear capacity.
This outcome was driven by a shift in elite opinion and the realization of a growing number of governments that running industrial and growing economies primarily on intermittent power sources is increasingly dicey.
The opinion shift on the nuclear-climate nexus was evident across the political spectrum.
The chairwoman of the editorial board of the Financial Times stated that she had a rude awakening regarding her hope for a renewable energy response to climate change. “We either need to hope for a miracle around battery storage or hedge our bets with backup sources, such as nuclear.”
That stalwart of the establishment, The Economist magazine, wrote that nuclear power made, “fighting climate change a lot easier.”
The progressive The American Prospect magazine noted that nuclear energy was being treated like a “pariah” by the participants in the climate conference. This despite the fact that, “nuclear energy has gained new respect, due primarily to wind and solar’s energy storage and intermittency issues.”
Also on the American left, The Atlantic referred to nuclear power as, “the Atlas of carbon-free energy production, keeping the world hefted on its shoulders.”
Not to be left out, the right-of-center Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece that blankly stated, “Either for ideology or profit, climate activists promote wind and solar solutions despite the enormous carbon footprint to manufacture them, their intermittent energy production, and the monstrous cost and pollution required to manufacture and dispose of batteries for green backup. But the single greatest sin is the demonization of nuclear power.”

A number of the core nuclear-climate nexus arguments were underscored in a package of articles in Foreign Affairs titled, “Going Nuclear on Climate Change.” This set was a response to a previous article published in the journal by a former chairperson of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It complained about the inability of nuclear power to respond to the climate crisis fast and cheaply enough.
One of the Foreign Affair’s “Going Nuclear” authors captured the true essence of this objection by explaining that nuclear energy is clearly opposed by a strain of environmental elites. But that opposition is cloaked by deflection that expresses itself as disappointment about high costs and construction timeliness.
This author noted that, “the only thing more costly than trying to build out a zero-carbon grid with nuclear energy…is trying to build out a zero-carbon grid without nuclear energy.”
Interestingly, the former NRC chairperson, in a recent interview, agreed that there was a pressing need to move away from fossil fuels quickly, and that “nuclear would be a part of that mix, potentially, if we were really, really serious,” adding that “it means a lot of money.”
Major industrial nations seem to have arrived at that same conclusion.
Japan, South Korea, France, the U.K., Brazil, Russia, China, the U.S., and the leadership of the European Union all endorsed the role of nuclear energy in reducing carbon emissions at or around the COP.
There also were announcements in Glasgow about U.S. support for new nuclear energy development and collaborations with Poland, Kenya, Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, and Romania. The American bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed this week by the president has significant funding for existing nuclear plants and next-generation reactor development.
Even the U.N. got on board. The Director General of the IAEA noted that at COP25 in Madrid, he was advised that nuclear was unwelcome. In Glasgow he anchored a high-impact discussion of the nuclear-climate intersection.
In concert with the IAEA, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe published “Key Takeaways” for how existing and future nuclear energy can support “climate and sustainable development objectives.”
This wave of nuclear-climate nexus validation is important and reflects a sober realism and recalibration of how the globe most effectively decarbonizes.
The challenge for the emerging generation of smaller nuclear technologies in this new environment is the need to deliver in a timely fashion. This is particularly important in democratic nations where new technology programs can become endless R&D efforts.
What these nations need is a realistic, actionable, and collaborative strategy for the development, licensing, and deployment at scale of these new nuclear technologies. This roadmap is essential for avoiding technical cul-de-sacs, ensuring effective non-proliferation and security, and circumventing circular firing squads in pursuit of market share.
The fact that this strategy doesn’t exist provides succor to the nuclear opponents that are patiently anticipating the meltdown of these future nuclear technologies.
The unfortunate flip side is that their opposition won’t stop nuclear energy from being deployed. Instead, it will allow Russia and China to control the global nuclear market for the remainder of this century. That will be a tragedy for global security. And that is really, really serious.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security 

President Biden has signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, which approves massive investments in roads, bridges, waterways, and other hard infrastructure. Through the infrastructure bill, the nuclear enterprise will receive almost $8.5 billion in funding for advanced reactor development and for maintaining the existing nuclear fleet. $2.5 billion will support the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The remaining $6 billion is allocated for a “Civil Nuclear Credit Program” which aims to support the existing nuclear fleet and prevent premature shutdowns and preserve their zero-carbon electricity.
Nuclear Collaborations
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Response and Assistance Network (RANET) has expanded its network to 37 countries, with the recent addition of Saudi Arabia. RANET’s purpose is for countries to both offer and receive timely assistance in the event of a nuclear emergency. Saudi Arabia joining the network expands RANET’s ability to provide sampling and analysis of air, soil, and water, as well as radiation surveys.
The IAEA and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), have signed an agreement stating the two organizations will increase collaboration in preventing and countering criminal activities using nuclear science and technology. The plan will enable the transfer of technologies as well as develop tools for the law enforcement community.
Rosenergoatom has agreed to partner with NLMK, Russia’s biggest steelmaker, on clean power supply. This agreement may include the supply of nuclear energy to new facilities at the Stoilensky mining and processing site. 

The U.S. DOE has awarded $800,000 to a mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Texas, Haifeng Zhang, for a project monitoring the storage of nuclear waste. The three-year project is dedicated to monitoring the temperature and pressure of stainless steel canisters that store waste, such as fuel rods.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Following the European Commission’s (EC) response last month to rising energy prices, EC President Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement discussing a future energy mix where, “[a]longside [solar and wind], we need a stable source, nuclear; and during the transition, of course, natural gas. This is why – as we have already stated as a Commission in April – we will come forward with our taxonomy proposal.”

Five European Union (EU) countries have joined together to denounce the potential inclusion of nuclear in the EU’s green finance taxonomy. Germany is leading the charge, with Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Portugal also signing the joint declaration for a nuclear-free EU taxonomy. The EC is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks regarding the statue of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy.
Ireland’s EU Financial Services Commissioner, Mairead McGuinness, has faced pressure from other European countries to reclassify nuclear power as “green energy.” McGuinness is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks, as the EU is experiencing extremely high energy prices.
President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France will build new nuclear reactors to achieve its 2050 carbon neutrality goals. While specifics have not yet been released, the government is expected to announce the construction of upwards of six pressurized-water reactors (PWRs). Europe’s current gas crisis has accelerated France’s decision to turn to the EPR reactor technology. 
As the UK tries to cut carbon emissions and reduce nuclear energy costs, British company Rolls-Royce has announced plans to build a series of small nuclear reactors (SMRs). The Rolls-Royce SMR business received a £210 million grant from the government as well as £195 million from private firms. The initial funding will be used to put the SMR design through the UK's expected four-year nuclear regulatory process.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, has announced that Iran will continue nuclear talks with world powers on November 29 in Vienna. The arrangement was set in a phone call with an EU mediator. Bagheri has tweeted that the talks aim “at the removal of unlawful and inhumane sanctions,” referring to the U.S. sanctions placed on Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
UAE’s Barakah NPP has completed construction of its third unit. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Commission (ENEC) announced at Glasgow’s COP26 that the unit is still projected to be operational in 2023. ENEC will now be focused on unit 3’s operational readiness preparations, testing, regulatory inspections, and international assessments needed to obtain an operating license from UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation. 
The Nuclear Regulatory Council of Turkey has approved the construction of a fourth reactor at Akkuyu NPP. Akkuyu’s general manager, Anastasia Zoteeva, said that obtaining the construction license for the unit was crucial for the final phase of the NPP. The fourth reactor’s construction is scheduled to start at the beginning of next year.
A new fuel assembly plant at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant has been opened in Kazakhstan. The plant is a joint venture between China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) and Kazatomprom that will supply fuel to CGNPC’s subsidiary.
China National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC) has announced the process of fuel loading the 177 assemblies into Fuqing 6 has begun. The unit being fueled is the second demonstration Hualong One reactor, which is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year.
CNNC has completed hot functional tests at Karachi 3 in Pakistan, which simulate the real temperatures and pressures the reactor will be exposed to when in operation. This is the CNNS’ second overseas Hualong One reactor to begin its fuel loading stage.
China’s Shidaowan plant’s second reactor of the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor Pebble-bed Module (HTR-PM) has reached criticality for the first time. The HTR-PM reactor will now undergo a series of tests, similar to the first reactor. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
TerraPower has selected Kemmerer, Wyoming, near the Naughton coal-fired power plant, as the preferred site for the Natrium reactor demonstration project. The Natrium plant, featuring a sodium-cooled fast reactor and a molten salt-based storage system, will replace the coal plant and is expected to be operational in 2028. 
X-Energy has plans for the construction of four small reactors near the Columbia River in Washington. The federal energy department has received $160 million to help fund X-Energy projects. With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed into law, the act will provide almost $2.5 billion through Fiscal Year 2025 to the DOE’s contribution to ARDP.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has proposed removing uranium from its 2021 Draft List of Critical Materials, which outlines the minerals deemed crucial to U.S. national defense and economic security. The USGS has left uranium off of its draft citing the Energy Act of 2020 which “explicitly excluded” minerals related to fuel as being defined as critical materials.
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently conducted a Full Committee Hearing on Potential Non-Electric Applications Of Civilian Nuclear Energy. The committee’s chairman, Senator Joe Manchin, announced that “advanced nuclear reactors hold enormous potential to provide opportunity to communities across the country with zero-emission base load power.” The committee discussed the development of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) supply, the opportunity for hydrogen production using nuclear energy, and other key nuclear policy issues.  
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The U.S. Patent Office has issued a Notice of Allowance for a key divisional patent to Lightbridge Corporation. The Notice of Allowance concerns Lightbridge’s metallic nuclear fuel assembly for a PWR with square fuel assembly grids.
X-Energy and Centrus Energy have completed preliminary designs of the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility, which will produce tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel on a commercial scale. The facility will support the deployment of the Xe-100 SMRs, as well as other customers requiring other TRISO fuel forms.
Isotek and the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (EM) have successfully completed a joint venture to process and dispose of a low-dose inventory of uranium-233 at the U.S. DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The project is ready to move on to its next stage of development - processing canisters with the high-dose U-233 material.
Russia has been testing a miniature NPP in Siberia, which is responsible for residential heating. The next generation NPP was introduced to the Siberian town of Pevek a year ago. The miniature reactors could even warm greenhouses or provide heat for industrial purposes. 
Rosatom’s subsidiary has announced that a batch of six REMIX fuel assemblies made from recycled plutonium and uranium have successfully been created and are planned to be used in one of Russia’s VVER-1000 reactor’s operation cycle. REMIX fuel will provide a step-change in resource efficiency and waste reduction. 
At the request of Turkey’s government, an IAEA team conducted an International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission. The two-week process reviewed the legislative and regulatory framework for the security of nuclear, radioactive materials, associated facilities, and more. 
Fusion energy startup Helion Energy has raised $500 million for the development of a net positive electrical generator that will create more power than it uses. The company’s new prototype “Polaris” will add a regenerative energy technology to its fusion technology, which will generate electricity. The demonstration date is set for 2024.
A Nuclear Regulatory Commission report has stated that operators at the Millstone NPP in Connecticut failed to activate storm protection protocols in a timely manner, resulting in the plant’s flooding during Hurricane Ida. The report claimed that while Dominion Energy violated federal requirements, they were of “very low significance” and did not warrant penalties.
The IAEA’s Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) review of the Armenian NPP has been completed. The IAEA team reviewed the improvements in preparedness and organization of programs related to long term operation against the IAEA safety standards. The IAEA team stated that further work by the NPP was necessary, including the completion of the comprehensive ageing management review and confirmation of electrical components’ resistance to harsh conditions. 
Noteworthy Research
A joint report has been conducted by researchers from Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and LucidCatalyst LLC, regarding the extended life of the Diablo Canyon Canyon NPP. According to the report, keeping the plant open until 2025 would reduce California’s carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and save up to $21 billion in power system costs. The report additionally explores potential applications and scenarios related to desalination and hydrogen production that would increase the value of the Diablo Canyon NPP.

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has released a report entitled “Climate Change: Assessment of the Vulnerability of Nuclear Power Plants for their Adaptation.” The report details how extreme weather conditions caused by climate change affect the operation of NPPs, and then recommends different adaptation strategies to make NPPs more resistant to harsh weather conditions.
A new IAEA Safety Standard publication has covered the key aspects of a NPP’s lifecycle, including siting, construction, operation, and decommissioning. The publication details the structure and content of the Safety Analysis Report (SAR), a document that all operating organizations must present while getting authorization to build and operate a NPP. 
The Nuclear Conversation
The Washington Post, November 16
Time, November 16
The Breakthrough Institute, November 15
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 15
The Star Phoenix, November 15
The American Prospect (YouTube), November 15
RealClear Energy, November 15
The Economist, November 13
Al Jazeera, November 12
Russian News Agency, November 12
Energy Wire, November 11
Inside Sources, November 11
Star Tribune, November 11
The American Prospect, November 11
Financial Times, November 10
The Atlantic, November 10
Atlantic Council, November 10
Wall Street Journal November 10
Tri-City Herald, November 10
CNBC, November 9
S & P Global, November 9
Oil Price, November 7
The Telegraph, November 7
France 24, November 7
France 24, November 5
The Baltimore Sun, November 5
Time, November 5
Yahoo! News, November 5
Wall Street Journal, November 4
Wall Street Journal, November 4
IAEA, November 4
Foreign Affairs, November 3
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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