In this week’s issue, we discuss the tepid display of U.S. leadership at the U.N. Climate Conference (COP26) on the nuclear-climate-global security nexus. We also spotlight a recent set of Foreign Affairs articles debating the importance of nuclear power’s role in achieving net-zero. Finally, we cover the White House’s latest announcements on reducing methane emissions and building a clean energy economy.
Amplifying the Nuclear-Climate Nexus at COP 26
China apparently didn’t want to contribute to the excessive hot air being emitted at the Glasgow climate COP, so it’s leaders skipped out.
Instead it is preparing to spend up to $440 billion building 150 new nuclear reactors to achieve its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.
By contrast, the U.S. sent the president and 13 high-level officials and cabinet secretaries to Glasgow. It’s collective nuclear ambition at the summit was $25 million for a Nuclear Futures Package designed to support a few nations interested in nuclear energy and the announcement of a plan to build a six-module SMR in Romania.
This comparison is unflattering and a bit unfair because the U.S. is committing several billion dollars per year to nuclear energy, with a big focus on developing and proving next-generation reactors.
The Biden administration also has proposed another $10 billion plus to support existing and next-gen nuclear energy in its currently stalled bipartisan infrastructure bill. And there are tax incentives to support nuclear power’s zero-carbon output in the Build Back Better bill, which currently is a slippery political football on Capitol Hill.
But beyond the financial commitment to maintain the role of nuclear power’s climate benefits, the administration limits its public enthusiasm about the issue, has not developed a nuclear-climate nexus strategy that will allow it to take advantage of its next-gen nuclear investments, and has been mostly silent about the matter in Glasgow.
The reason for this reticence is well documented in a newly released U.S. strategy for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. There is a graph in the middle of the document that identifies the nation’s objectives for clean energy growth by technology.
Renewable energy increases from less than 1 Terawatt-hour at present to potentially 7 Terawatt-hours in 2050. Nuclear power is identified as remaining “in operation” with potentially modest growth “in the 2030s and 2040s.” 
There are no specifics on the types of reactors to be deployed. And no acknowledgement that by the 2050’s many of the current reactors that provide over 50% of U.S. zero-carbon electricity will be ready for retirement, necessitating replacement or substitution of their clean energy output.
How the renewable energy miracle anticipated in the U.S. strategy will be achieved in less than 30 years is not made completely clear in the document.
But it does identify the “substantial” challenges to it: “sufficient pace” of deployment; “new transmission, distribution, and storage infrastructure”; “longer duration storage solutions”; stressed supply chains including “rare earth elements”; “manufacturing capacity”; and “skilled workforce”. Absent from the list is the limit of public acceptance of territory-intrusive technologies.
Overcoming all of these barriers inevitably would establish the U.S. as an international clean energy powerhouse. But success is not guaranteed and betting the overwhelming majority of U.S. carbon reductions on renewables is a risky proposition for U.S. energy reliability, geopolitical influence, and global security.
In a new debate published in Foreign Affairs, many of these concerns are analyzed in the context of the role that nuclear power can play as a global zero-carbon workhorse.
Other countries are coming to grips with the limits of renewable energy as their primary decarbonization technology and are looking anew at nuclear.
The leaders of Hungary and South Korea issued a statement this week in which they agreed that, “climate neutrality cannot be achieved without nuclear energy.”
That declaration was echoed by the Director General of the IAEA, who noted that, “Nuclear is, and will be, part of the solution if we are to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.”
There also was a Tweet from the European Commission president asserting “We need more renewables. We also need a stable source, nuclear, and during the transition, gas.” This is a potential precursor to the inclusion of nuclear power and natural gas in the EU’s green finance taxonomy.
Then there are the fraught geopolitics of clean energy. A recent U.S. intelligence report underscored that the race to decarbonize will ratchet up geopolitical tensions.
Right now, the renewable energy superhighway runs right through China, and it has demonstrated that it will cutoff trade when faced with stiff political challenges from abroad.
When viewed in the aggregate, it seems like a significant number of U.S. allies – including Britain, France, South Korea, Japan, India, Canada, Poland, and Romania - are coming to realize that they need a stable zero-carbon energy backbone to support their deployment of renewables. Their choice is nuclear. The U.S. should be positioning itself to play a leading role in supporting this trend.
Nuclear power also is a primary clean energy source of America’s major challengers, China and Russia. They are aggressively cultivating nuclear export markets and see their domestic nuclear deployments as a necessary springboard for success abroad.
This is important because the Biden team has been tepid on the high stakes of losing the race to control the global nuclear market of the 21st Century. The winner of this international competition will exert significant influence over the governance rules for the nuclear technologies of the future. That, in turn, will have a direct impact on the potential for nuclear proliferation, security, and terrorism.
The nuclear-climate-global security nexus is now a knot that cannot be untied. But in Glasgow the U.S. is gliding past its importance and implications. China is not.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security 

In the latest Foreign Affairs issue, the debate over the role of nuclear power in getting to net zero again comes to a head as experts, including Ken Luongo of PGS, respond to a recent critique of nuclear power’s ability to impact climate change. The experts collectively argue the necessity of nuclear power in an “all of the above” portfolio of technologies to mitigate climate change. 
Nuclear Collaborations
NuScale Power and Romania’s Nuclearelectrica have announced plans to construct a small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Romania by 2028. The announcement came following a meeting between Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. The multi-billion dollar deal will create thousands of jobs in both countries and strengthen European energy security.
Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction has signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regarding maintenance work at unit 1 of the Barakah NPP. The company will be responsible for the maintenance of the turbines, generators, and other major systems.  
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The White House has released a joint statement from France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. President Joe Biden. The statement addresses Iran’s nuclear program, urging the country to fully comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 
China has announced its plans to construct at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, projected to cost as much as $440 billion. This comes as the nation ultimately plans to replace nearly all of its coal-fired generators with clean energy by 2060.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry has adopted a 128 page plan that recognizes nuclear and renewables as clean energy sources. The call for increased nuclear and renewable energy usage comes as Japan vows to meet its 2050 carbon neutrality goal.
European Union (EU) leaders have discussed potential solutions to the rising cost of energy supplies. The leaders proposed speeding up the transition process from fossil fuels to sustainable alternatives. At the talks’ conclusions, the European Commission requested that the EU executive arm look into gas and electricity markets to determine if manipulation is the cause of the carbon cost increase.
The British government has discussed plans to move forward with funding NPPs in a new Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill. The government has unveiled its plans to contribute £1.7 billion in taxpayer money towards the construction of a NPP, most likely Sizewell C, as well as the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) to encourage private investment in nuclear projects.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has announced the successful installation of the inner safety dome at unit 1 of the Zhangzhou NPP. The dome casing is responsible for the integrity and leak tightness of the reactor building as well as the containment of radioactive substances.
China has announced the successful installation of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) at unit 1 of the Zhangzhou NPP. The Hualong One RPV was designed by the China Nuclear Power Research and Design Institute and manufactured by China First Heavy Machinery Company Limited (CFHM). 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The White House issued a fact sheet prior to President Biden’s speech at the U.N. Climate Conference (COP26), addressing actions the administration has already taken and reporting new initiatives that are planned. This includes the unveiling of its new strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) program to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate and the announcement of the Build Back Better Framework and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. Additionally, the White House announced the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan which redoubles the government’s efforts to cut consumer costs and protect workers, and the $25 million “Nuclear Futures Package” to support expanding access to clean nuclear energy.
Congress has been considering a $235 billion reconciliation package regarding clean electricity. The package contains incentives for wind and solar technologies, and for emerging technologies such as green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels. In addition, the package would expand subsidies to nuclear facilities to approximately $15 billion to stave off closures.
Members of the congressional Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations have scolded the Biden administration for its lack of action regarding the radioactive waste leak in the Marshall Islands. The lack of response has complicated negotiations with the Marshallese government.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) has partnered with Exelon Generation to upgrade Exelon’s Limerick NPP to a fully digital safety system. Exelon has contracted Westinghouse Electric Company to replace the analogue-based reactor protection system.
The IAEA and UAE have decided to conduct an international exercise to test the global emergency response system at the Barakah NPP. 77 member states and 12 international organizations participated in the fictional scenario to test the implementation of emergency plans and procedures, bilateral agreements, and international agreements. The 36 hour long exercise tested the prompt exchange of information, assessment of the situation, public communication, and more.
Rosatom’s Proryv project has developed a new digital model of the public impacts of radiation releases. The digital model is based on conclusions made by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, recommendations of the International Commission on Radiation Protection, and IAEA standards. The results prove the “conservatism” of NPP design and can better enable economics.
A Japanese nuclear reactor has been suspended just four months after it has restarted. The suspension comes as the reactor could not meet a deadline to implement anti-terrorism measures. The unit plans to make the necessary changes around September of next year and be operational by October.
Lightbridge Ltd. has designed an experiment for the irradiation of samples of its metallic fuel material in the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR). Lightbridge collaborated with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) under the U.S. DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear’s (GAIN) voucher program to complete this work. 
Noteworthy Research
France’s grid operator has released a report outlining the requirements for the country to achieve its 2050 carbon-neutral goals at the cheapest cost. The report states that France must build 14 new nuclear reactors and significantly increase the use of renewables.
A feasibility study conducted by Bruce Power and Westinghouse has declared that Westinghouse’s eVinci micro-reactor is a feasible option for Canada’s off-grid markets. The report concludes that the eVinci micro-reactor is a clean and cost competitive alternative to diesel generation at mines and in remote communities.
Multiple nuclear industry organizations have published a report entitled “Nuclear’s contribution to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). The report addresses how nuclear contributions can help the UN achieve its 17 SDGs, including the elimination of poverty and hunger, improving health and education, and providing access to affordable and clean energy.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has released an unclassified version of its Climate Risk Analysis report. The report lays the foundation for the inclusion of climate change security implications in DOD strategic planning.
The IAEA has published a report entitled “Computer Security for Nuclear Security.” The report addresses the development, implementation, and integration of computer security as a significant factor of nuclear security. 
The Nuclear Conversation
Nuclear Newswire, November 2
Nuclear Engineering International, November 2
Forbes, November 2
Office of Nuclear Energy, November 2
Forbes, November 1
Boston Herald, October 30
Euronews, October 28
Wall Street Journal, October 28
Bloomberg, October 28
The Argonaut, October 26
Los Angeles Times, October 26
Wall Street Journal, October 24
MarketWatch October 23
The Gazette, October 22
The Australian, October 22
World Nuclear News, October 21
Predict, October 21
Yahoo Finance, October 21
Tennessean, October 21
OnlineAthens, October 20
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