In this week’s issue, we provide a detailed timeline of Russia’s nuclear weapons saber rattling since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine. We spotlight an Andreessen Horowitz article that assesses the steps needed to effectively scale new, advanced reactors and what stands in the way. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Russia-Ukraine Invasion: Russia's Nuclear Saber Rattling
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion into Ukraine, Russian leaders and officials have alluded to, or made direct threats, regarding the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict. A new PGS timeline serves as a record of these threatening statements since February 2022. Among the most notable items are Vladimir Putin’s allusions to nuclear use in response to Western support for Ukraine, his plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, and the comments of other officials and Kremlin connected commentators on the utility of nuclear weapons use in the conflict.

You can access the Partnership for Global Security’s timeline of Russia’s nuclear saber rattling by clicking the link here.
Patrick Kendall, Program Director, Partnership for Global Security
Michael Sway, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security

Capital market company Andreessen Horowitz published an article on how to scale nuclear power. The article argues that the success of nuclear power is highly influenced by project management, financing, and policy as well as regulations and continuing public concerns about safety and waste. The article notes that rising reactor construction costs and a strict regulatory environment currently inhibit the rate of reactor development and deployment. The United States is taking numerous measures already to reduce the costs of nuclear reactor construction, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is evolving its review process and regulations for licensing advanced nuclear reactors. The article concludes that to achieve clean energy objectives hundreds of gigawatts of nuclear power will be required.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Blasts near the Khmelnytskyi nuclear site damaged windows at the facility overnight. The IAEA stated that, although this did not affect operation of the plant, it did knock out power temporarily for some off-site radiation monitoring stations. IAEA Director General Grossi stated, “The fact that numerous windows at the site were destroyed shows just how close it was. Next time, we may not be so fortunate.”
Nuclear Collaborations
After a long period of disagreement, France and Germany finally reached a deal on electricity markets. The two countries’ ministries reached a consensus that governments have the option to implement contracts for difference (CfD) for established nuclear reactors. The French government has wanted to subsidize its own nuclear power program, but Germany and other countries have objected because state subsidies are not in the spirit of the European Union’s energy markets.

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in order to secure uranium for France’s nuclear power plants. Macron’s visit also seeks to expand French influence in Central Asia, which has strong ties to Russia and China, as well as to secure the two countries as reliable uranium suppliers following the military coup in Niger. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are respectively France’s largest and third-largest suppliers of uranium.

TerraPower and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), and Mitsubishi FBR Systems (MFBR) have agreed to expand their existing memorandum of understanding on the development of sodium-cooled fast reactors. The MoU now allows the partnering organizations to explore the opportunity to collaborate on a common reactor design concept, based on Japan’s demonstration program and TerraPower’s existing technologies. The JAEA has a history of operating sodium-cooled fast reactors, and MHI was selected by the Japanese government to lead the conceptual design of a demonstration 650 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor that is to enter operation in the 2040s.

Cameco announced its uranium supply agreement with CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear International Cooperation (CNIC) at the 2023 International Natural Uranium Industry Development Forum in Beijing. The terms and details of Cameco’s agreement with CNIC are commercially confidential and will not be disclosed publicly. The International Natural Uranium Industry Development Forum took place on October 28 and was attended by some 300 delegates, including government officials and representatives from the IAEA.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has asked that Russia pay compensation for issues that arose with the Ostrovets nuclear power station. The Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant was supposed to begin operation in 2020, but the deadline was pushed back multiple times due to repairs, which Lukashenko claims was Russia’s fault. Lukashenko added that it is necessary to find whether the concessions made by Russia, particularly Rosatom, are sufficient for Belarus.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) have partnered together to work on the Joint Project on Waste Integrations for Small and Advanced Reactor Designs (WISARD). This project will focus on exploring how front-end and design phase decisions will impact back-end strategies to support sustainable future nuclear systems. EPRI is the first financial backer for the project. EPRI is an independent, nonprofit energy research and development organization that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery, and use of electricity for the benefit of the public.

Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and the country’s National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) signed a framework agreement regarding technical assistance for the CAREM small modular reactor (SMR) project. The agreement provides a general framework for CAREM plant development and will have a two-year duration with the option for extension by mutual agreement. According to CNEA, the framework covers studies, analysis and calculations for CAREM development, supervision in engineering expertise, and technical documentation.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The first U.S.-Africa Nuclear Summit opened in Accra on October 30, with a focus on how African nations can leverage nuclear energy to boost industrialization and economic development. The Summit was organized by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission’s Nuclear Power Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy. It brought together participants from across Africa and international institutions, nuclear industry, and civil society organizations.

Cipher reported that the United States is working to ensure nuclear power is included in the expected global pledge to boost renewables at the upcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai. The United States is pushing for additional language to accompany the main pledge that would ensure other low-emission technologies, such as nuclear power, are not overlooked. While nuclear and renewable hydropower have traditionally provided the bulk of the world’s zero-carbon energy, solar and wind have grown rapidly in recent years and are expected to account for the majority of growth this decade.

The IAEA opened its 29th International Fusion Energy Conference in London with Director General Grossi announcing the inaugural meeting of the World Fusion Energy Group next year. The aim of the group is to bring together scientists and engineers from labs and experimental centers with policy makers, financiers, regulators, and private companies. Additionally, the IAEA also launched a new publication, the IAEA World Fusion Outlook 2023, a comprehensive guide on fusion’s journey from vision to reality. The IAEA has signed a partnership with MIT and is collaborating with companies such as Eni, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, General Atomics, Tokamak Energy, and First Light Fusion. At the FEC conference, a Women in Fusion event was also held. The event also promotes greater gender equality and diversity in the fusion energy workforce, which currently consists of only 20% women.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) published a blog detailing recent investment and commercial trends in the global nuclear energy sector, as well as advocating for further support of nuclear power. NEI documents recent customer deals involving nuclear power, examines the ongoing international debate surrounding next-generation nuclear reactors, and analyzes the stock performance of uranium. The blog also includes numerous international developments regarding cooperation between U.S. nuclear energy companies and foreign governments interested in building nuclear reactors.

Three energy companies have submitted their final bids to build the Czech Republic’s newest reactor at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. Westinghouse, Électricité de France (EDF), and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) will now have their bids assessed by Czech state-controlled power company CEZ for the multi-billion-dollar contract before sending its decision to the government for final approval of the winner. The Czech Republic is striving to become more energy independent and weaned off of fossil fuels, with the new Dukovany unit expected to become operational by 2036.

Several hedge fund managers have started ratcheting up their investments in uranium, as they bet on significant price gains. Managers from Terra Capital, Segra Capital, and Anaconda Invest are building bets on uranium companies such as Cameco, Energy Fuels., Ur-Energy Inc., and NexGen Energy. More than a decade after the shock of the Fukushima power plant meltdown, uranium valuations have risen 125% since 2020.

Bulgaria is taking the first steps towards the construction of two additional reactors at its Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. The energy ministry will begin the selection of a contractor for the design, construction, and commissioning of the seventh power unit at the site and simultaneously start procedures to build an eighth reactor. Construction of the seventh unit is expected to be completed by 2033 using Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor technology.

The IAEA completed its Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission to Estonia. The INIR team reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using the methodology for Phase 1 of the IAEA’s Milestones Approach which evaluates the readiness of a country to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power program. The team identified numerous good practices from Estonia while also providing recommendations such as the need to finalize its comprehensive report to support the decision on a potential nuclear power program.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) hopes to finish construction of the long-delayed Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant between April and June 2024. The Rokkasho facility will allow reprocessing of fuel from 40 reactors of 4 GW capacity each and gradually increase Japan’s reprocessing capacity to 800 tons of uranium annually by 2031. Japan has about 19,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel in storage, and some 95-97% of this used fuel could be recycled to be used at nuclear power plants.

Orano SA will spend $1.8 billion to expand the Georges Besse 2 uranium enrichment plant in southern France. The investment will boost production at the facility by more than 30%, and the site will eventually process enough uranium to generate nuclear power for the equivalent of 120 million households a year. This move is partially intended to reduce France and the European Union’s reliance on Russian enriched nuclear fuel.

Nucleoeléctrica Argentina has delivered the environmental impact study for the Atucha 1 reactor extension project, which aims to add a further 20 years to the unit’s operating life. Atucha 1’s current operating license is set to expire at the end of 2024. The life extension project will see the unit undergo a 30-month upgrade stoppage from 2024 to 2026, with Nucleoeléctrica putting the refurbishment program’s cost at $463 million.

In preparation for the large number of proposed new nuclear energy projects, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) has established a new pre-licensing system based on the approach used by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The need for new regulations was the result of over 100 new plant proposals over the last two decades, many of which featured new technology with no equivalents in existing power plants. The pre-licensing process is optional and will be particularly focused on small modular reactors (SMRs), which the country says is one of its main priorities for its energy systems.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) renewed the licenses for Cameco’s uranium operations. The renewed licenses authorize the company to continue to operate the Key Lake, McArthur River, and Rabbit Lake uranium sites. Cameco submitted its applications for the license renewals last November, as Cameco must provide the CNSC with periodic comprehensive updates on the conduct of its licensed activities.

According to a recent poll from Ipsos, 55% of Canadians support the use of nuclear energy to supply electricity. Approximately 63% of Canadians support the refurbishment of existing nuclear power plants, while 51% support the construction of new nuclear power plants. The survey consisted of a sample of 2,000 Canadians over the age of 18 that were interviewed online.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The White House sent a list of funding priorities for “critical domestic needs” to Congress for consideration as legislators restart the stalled annual appropriations process. Those priorities include $2.2 billion for low-enriched uranium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) enrichment capacities, as well as a long-term ban on enriched uranium from Russia. The Department of Energy estimates that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by the end of the decade, with additional HALEU required each year thereafter to fuel a fleet of advanced reactors.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security has passed bills on transformers, reliability, hydropower, and nuclear power to encourage the development of next-generation project. The subcommittee passed 12 bills related to nuclear power, aiming to reduce the time required to review and license a new nuclear power plant, lower the costs to obtain a license from the NRC for advanced reactors, and ensure U.S. leadership in nuclear exports and supply chain issues.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security approved a bill that would boost domestic uranium mining, production, enrichment, and conversion capacity for nuclear fuel programs. The Nuclear Fuel Security Act would authorize the Energy Secretary to establish the Nuclear Fuel Security Program, which will work to increase the quantity of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) and low-enriched uranium produced by U.S. nuclear energy companies. The bill would also expand the American Assured Fuel Supply Program to ensure the availability of domestically produced, converted, and enriched uranium in the event of a supply disruption.
X-energy and blank-check firm Ares Acquisition mutually called off a $2 billion deal to go public, nearly a year after their earlier agreement. This announcement comes amid challenging market conditions and the receding enthusiasm for special purpose acquisition companies in the face of the current circumstances. X-energy previously agreed to merge with Ares to go public as part of a $2 billion deal.
X-energy Reactor Company and the U.S. Department of Energy signed a cooperative agreement through 2024 to further advance the development of X-energy’s transportable mobile microreactor design. The award is worth a total of about $2.5 million, and the company will use it to continue advancing X-energy’s mobile microreactor beyond technical feasibility to commercial reality. The Department of Defense previously awarded X-energy a contract option to develop an enhanced engineering design for a transportable microreactor under its Project Pele Initiative.
The Department of Energy has unveiled three nuclear microreactor developers that will design the first experiments at the Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) new Demonstration of Microreactor Experiments (DOME) test bed. Westinghouse, Radiant Nuclear, and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (USNC) will receive a combined $3.9 million to further their microreactor designs through a front-end engineering and experiment design (FEEED) process. This initiative will be spearheaded by the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC).
NASA has awarded Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) a contract to manufacture and test fuel and develop the design of a nuclear thermal propulsion engine for near-term missions. The $5 million NASA contract will build on the foundations laid by NASA and the DRACO program, which aims to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system in orbit by 2027. Elsewhere, Space Nuclear Power Corporation has partnered with Lockheed Martin and BWXT for the U.S. Space Force’s JETSON nuclear electric propulsion demonstration project. Space Nuclear will design and guide the assembly of the nuclear reactor power system which will provide electric power to the spacecraft.
Nebraska lawmakers are exploring whether the state could deploy small modular reactors (SMR) sometime in the next decade. State Senator Tom Brewer introduced Legislative Resolution 178 to explore the feasibility of constructing and operating SMRs in Nebraska, with such study potentially informing legislation in 2024. The Nebraska Public Power District already operates the Cooper Nuclear Station, which produces about 1,365 megawatts of energy.
A bipartisan list of Ohio House lawmakers introduced legislation that would expand the legal definition of “green energy” to include nuclear power. The bill is a way of calling for Ohio to increase its nuclear generation, with Representative Sean Brennan stating that Ohio is open to the nuclear industry. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee, where it would undergo hearings before any future votes.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced his continued support for clean energy investments in the state, which includes nuclear power. The state Department of Community and Economic Development awarded a $1.08 million Pennsylvania First grant to Westinghouse to help the company establish a new facility in Etna, which would manufacture non-nuclear parts for the company’s eVinci portable nuclear microreactor. Westinghouse will also invest $18 million into this facility.
Noteworthy Research
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released a report on how to develop nuclear energy facilities in coal plant communities. The report provides owner-operators and other stakeholders with practical guidance for the relatively near-term deployment of a nuclear energy facility on, or near, an existing coal plant site. EPRI adds that existing coal plants can provide benefits and opportunities that make consideration of deploying new nuclear generation on an existing coal site a compelling option.

British consulting firm Charles River Associates (CRA) published a report documenting the challenges facing the renewed focus on nuclear power. The report identifies that one of the biggest hurdles facing the British nuclear industry is a broad shortage of skilled tradespeople in the nuclear energy sector. CRA states that a multiyear, multi-unit buildup of nuclear reactors will require addressing the labor shortage at various stages, including education, recruitment for entry-level positions, and the identification of highly skilled master tradespeople.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the latest edition of its World Energy Outlook. The report states that a changing policy landscape is creating opportunities for a nuclear comeback, with nuclear generating capacity expected to increase from 417 GWe currently to 620 GWe in 2050 in the IEA’s scenario based on existing energy policies. The IEA adds that while large-scale reactors remain the dominant form of nuclear power in all scenarios, the development of and growing interest in small modular reactors (SMR) increases the potential for nuclear power in the long run.

The Conference Board of Canada published a report supporting the construction of small modular reactors (SMR) in the province of Ontario. The report finds that the construction and operation of four SMRs by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) at its Darlington site would contribute about $11.2 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product, with the units also creating and sustaining 2,000 jobs each year over the next 65 years. In October of last year, OPG submitted an application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a license to construct a BWRX-300 SMR at its site in Darlington, with construction expected to be completed by late 2028.
The Nuclear Conversation
DW, November 1
World Nuclear News, November 1
Real Clear Energy, October 30
The Washington Examiner, October 30
Business Insider, October 29
Cryptopolitan, October 29
Oil Price, October 26
E&E News, October 25
Fast Company, October 25
The Atlantic Council, October 23
Chicago Sun Times, October 23
Energy News Network, October 23
Forbes, October 23
Upstate Today, October 20
DW, October 19
European Leadership Network, October 19
The New Arab, October 19
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.