In this week’s newsletter, we provide a detailed timeline of Russia’s transgressions against Ukrainian and global nuclear security since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine. We spotlight the Department of Energy’s recent environmental assessment of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) project. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Russia-Ukraine Invasion: Russia's Nuclear Transgressions
Since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has committed numerous nuclear security transgressions through attacks on Ukrainian nuclear facilities and destabilizing Ukraine’s nuclear safety and security infrastructure. This timeline documents all known instances of Russia endangering the security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities since March 2022. Among the most concerning developments include Russian shelling of numerous Ukrainian nuclear buildings, Russia’s continued occupation and barricading of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and the IAEA’s difficulty accessing and monitoring Ukrainian nuclear power plants under Russian control.

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

The Department of Energy published its environmental assessment for the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) project at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The DoE’s Office of Nuclear Energy found that based on the impact analysis of the proposed action, any potential impact associated with these activities would not significantly affect the quality of human health and the environment. Going forward, the Office of Nuclear Energy will support the MCRE project by supporting the design and fabrication, installing MCRE in the LOTUS testbed, developing and synthesizing fuel salt, and operating the MCRE.
Despite the DoE environmental assessment, the MCRE is controversial because it is fueled with highly-enriched uranium, a nuclear weapon material. The use of HEU fuel in a civil nuclear reactor is viewed as a departure from past and current U.S. policy.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
IAEA experts continue to request access to all six turbine halls at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant so that they may confirm that Russian operators are in compliance with the Five Security Principles agreed upon earlier this year. Additionally, the experts are still awaiting approval for access to the roofs of buildings 1, 2, 5, and 6, which they expected to happen earlier this week. Unit 4 has been brought back to a state of “hot shutdown” after repairs for a water leak detected in August were completed and unit 6 returning to “cold shutdown”. This decision was made even as the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has said that all 6 reactors should be in a state of cold shutdown for safety reasons and the IAEA continues to urge the Russian operators to look for safer options for steam generation.

The IAEA has been informed that another reactor at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant will be transitioned into “hot shutdown” to provide heating and hot water for the district during the coming winter. According to the IAEA, there has been no decision on how long unit 5 will be in hot shutdown, but that a decision will be made in the coming days as Enerhodar’s heating systems stabilize. This decision comes as the IAEA continues to urge the plant operators to find an alternative way to generate steam as safety concerns rise due to the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, which limited the plants cooling water supply.

After multiple requests over the last months, a team of IAEA experts was finally able to access the roof of unit 2 at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and saw no sign of mines or explosives. Additionally, the team was able to see parts of the roofs of units 1 & 3 and did not see signs of mines or explosives. This was the first roof inspection since August, when experts had access to the roofs of units 3 & 4; however, the IAEA is still seeking access to all the turbine halls and roofs “one after another”.
Nuclear Collaborations
Rosatom signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with both Burkina Faso and Mali on cooperation in the field of the peaceful use of nuclear energy on the sidelines of the 6th Russian Energy Week Forum. The MoU creates the basis for establishing cooperation in a wide range of areas, including approaches to the creation of nuclear generation, non-power applications of nuclear industry, the development of Burkina Faso’s nuclear infrastructure, and increasing public awareness of nuclear technologies. The MoU with Mali seeks to develop Mali’s nuclear infrastructure, fundamental and applied research, and nuclear research facilities.

Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev and Myanmar’s Science and Technology Minister Myo Thein Kyaw signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) during Russia’s Energy Week forum. The MoU establishes a framework for determining the nuclear infrastructure needs for Myanmar and identifying priority areas of work for the development of a small modular reactor (SMR) project. This MoU builds on an Intergovernmental Agreement on the cooperation in the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes signed by both countries in February 2023.

The World Nuclear Association and the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) have signed a memorandum of understanding for the civilian applications of nuclear energy to support the economic growth and sustainable energy development in Africa. The purpose of this agreement is to support information and exchange, networking, capacity building, and training. Numerous countries in Africa are considering adopting nuclear energy as they seek to meet rising demand for electricity and decarbonize their economies.

Rolls-Royce SMR awarded a contract to Westinghouse Electric Company UK Ltd to develop a fuel design for its small modular reactor (SMR). The design work, undertaken jointly in the United Kingdom and the United States, will include associated core components and will be based on an existing Westinghouse pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel assembly. Additionally, Rolls-Royce SMR is partnering with UK’s National Physical Laboratory to investigate safe automated reactor operations of SMRs, specifically the potential to use inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry.

Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and Brazil’s National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen the two nations’ ongoing collaboration in peaceful uses of nuclear technology relating to their planned research reactors. CNEA President Adriana Serquis said that the new MoU builds upon the cooperation on research reactors, covering bilateral cooperation in the field of nuclear medicine, irradiation testing of fuels and materials, and research using neutron beams. CNEN President Francisco Rondinelli noted that the MoU includes a partnership with Argentina’s Invap for engineering support for the Brazilian Multipurpose Reactor (RMB) and its laboratory facilities.

Russia’s TVEL and the Belarusian Organization for Radioactive Waste Management have entered into a long-term cooperation agreement covering the creation and development of infrastructure for the final isolation of radioactive waste in Belarus, as well as training personnel for the operation of a near-surface waste disposal facility. TVEL official Eduard Nikitin added that Russia is ready to share its extensive experience in radioactive waste management. Belarus regularly collaborates with Russia in nuclear affairs, including Rosatom building Belarus’ Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant.

Newcleo signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to collaborate on manufacturability, supply chain, and development studies for Newcleo’s small modular lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) technology. The first step of the roadmap will be the design and construction of the first-of-a-kind 30 MWe LFR to be deployed in France by 2030, followed by a 200 MWe commercial unit in the United Kingdom two years later.

Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, Alexandre Silveira, and French Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher held talks in Paris to discuss energy transition issues and strategic partnership opportunities, with an emphasis on nuclear energy. According to Brazil’s Ministry, “it was established that a permanent work agenda would be structured between the two countries, with an emphasis on nuclear energy.” Following the meeting, representatives from several French companies, such as EDF and Framatome, met with Silveira to discuss new opportunities.

Sheffield Forgemasters, X-energy, and Cavendish Nuclear signed a memorandum of understanding on collaborating to explore opportunities around the deployment of a fleet of Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) in the United Kingdom. X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear will tap into Sheffield Forgemasters’ experience in the development of nuclear forgings and castings with plans to build up to 40 Xe-100 reactors in the United Kingdom. The Xe-100 is a Generation IV advanced reactor designed to operate as a standard 320 MWe four-pack power plant.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power signed an agreement with Canadian Candu Energy and Italy’s Ansaldo Nucleare to jointly carry out a refurbishment of unit 1 at the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant in Romania. Candu Energy and Ansaldo will be responsible for designing the nuclear reactor system and turbine generator system and purchasing equipment, respectively. Meanwhile, KHNP will be responsible for the overall construction as well as infrastructure construction, including radioactive waste storage facilities.

French mining company Orano and the Mongolian state-owned company Erdenes Mongol LLC made an agreement that sets out the framework for an investment that will lay the foundation of a long-term relationship between the two nations for the development and industrial operation of the Zuuvch-Ovoo uranium project. The Franco-Mongolian project will be based on international standards and best practices in terms of safety, security, and the environment. The project will set a benchmark for the development of industry in Mongolia.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Leaders from around the world will gather at the Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels early next year to highlight the role of nuclear energy in addressing the global challenges to reduce the use of fossil fuels, enhance energy security, and boost economic development. The Summit will take place in March 2024 and be hosted by the IAEA and Belgium. This will be the highest-level meeting to date exclusively focused on the topic of nuclear energy.

During the IAEA quadrennial conference in Vienna, international officials stated that the nuclear industry needs more financial support from governments to boost output as private markets have underestimated the long-term value of atomic power. This announcement comes as financing for nuclear power projects in the United States and Europe has struggled as projects continue to miss budgets and deadlines. The IAEA added that nuclear output needs to double over the next three decades for the world to mitigate catastrophic climate change.

Saudi Arabia announced that it is interested in studying technology for small modular reactors (SMR). Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman stated that the kingdom aims to study all types and applications of atomic energy. Saudi Arabia has been building a test reactor and is negotiating with the United States as it seeks to develop a nuclear energy program.

The Government of Niger has confirmed its “full support” for Global Atomic Corporation’s Dasa uranium project. The Canadian company added that the project is still penciled in to make its first yellowcake deliveries in 2025, with a recent offtake agreement contracting nearly 1.5 million pounds of triuranium octoxide (U3O8) per year over the first five years of the mine’s operation. The project is progressing in spite of the recent coup d’état in Niger and the subsequent suspension of financial assistance from the United States.

Slovenia is considering three vendors to build its proposed JEK2 Nuclear Power Plant. These vendors are the U.S. company Westinghouse, France’s Électricité de France (EDF), and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP). The planned timeline is for a final investment decision by 2028, with the aim of new capacity coming online in the 2030s. Slovenia changed the design of the project earlier this year in order to build a larger block with a power of up to 2400 MW.

Nuclear fuel has been delivered to Russia's floating Akademik Lomonosov Nuclear Power Plant, with the landmark refueling set to begin before the end of the year. Rosatom’s fuel division, TVEL, delivered the nuclear fuel via the Northern Sea Route to the site. The Akademik Lomonosov power plant is described as a pilot project for a future fleet of Russian-made floating nuclear power plants, with Rosatom currently in the process of constructing four new floating power units.

An IAEA task force will visit Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant for the first time since Japan began releasing the plant’s treated radioactive water in August. The visit will include experts from 11 different countries, including China, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Marshall Islands. Meanwhile, Russia has recently joined China in saying Japan was not transparent enough about the safety of the treated water, while the United States supports Japan’s position that this allegation is groundless.

Slovakian utility Slovenské elektrárne announced that the new Mochovce 3 unit has successfully completed a 144-hour demonstration run at full nuclear power, thereby completing the commissioning process. The commissioning process for the new unit has lasted for more than a year with hundreds of safety tests taking place. Slovenské elektrárne noted that since being connected to the grid earlier this year, Mochovce 3 has supplied 1.2 million megawatt hours.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has granted funding to Kinectrics and FuelCell Energy’s study which will explore the potential of using nuclear-generated electricity to produce hydrogen. The project will also serve as a pilot for broader deployment at a large scale including integrating hydrogen systems with nuclear power plants, including small modular reactors. This project is one of six selected to receive funding from the Ontario government’s new Hydrogen Innovation Fund.

Following last month’s Roadmaps to New Nuclear conference, 20 countries committed to nuclear energy as part of the solution to reaching net zero emission targets. This represented the largest multilateral shift toward a global accord on nuclear technology in decades. The joint communique appears to be timed to drum up support for nuclear power ahead of the upcoming COP28 in November.

Wellfield pre-conditioning has started as the final step before resuming uranium extraction at the Honeymoon in-situ leach (ISL) uranium project in Australia. Boss Energy Limited said that Honeymoon is on track to resume production by the end of this year. While the mine has been under maintenance since 2013, the project is considered one of the world’s most advanced uranium development projects that can be fast-tracked to resume production.

Kansai Electric Power Company informed the Fukui Prefecture in Japan that it plans to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel in air-cooled dry storage facilities to be built at its nuclear power plants. The power utility will then begin operations of an interim storage facility by 2030. Kansai also showed a plan to move spent nuclear fuel to a reprocessing plant under construction in the village of Rokkasho in the fiscal year 2026 or later.

Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyi (TVO) announced it has initiated an environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure for a possible operating license extension and potential power uprating of the two reactors at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant. While the two units are currently permitted to operate until 2038, TVO is now considering extending the operating licenses by at least a further 10 years. In addition to the extension, TVO is looking at uprating both units by 80 megawatts of electricity (MWe).

France blocked the purchase of Velan Inc.’s French power units by the U.S.-based Flowserve Corp, stifling Flowserve’s deal to buy Velan Inc. for $247 million. After months of deliberation, France decided to block the purchase because of its strategic importance to France’s nuclear sector. The move highlights President Emmanuel Macron’s determination to secure key industries from foreign takeovers.

Edison’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, Lorenzo Mottura, stated that nuclear power could play a key role alongside renewables in Italy’s long-term decarbonization plans. The Italian utility said in its strategic plan that it aims to build two nuclear power plants of 340 megawatts each between 2030 and 2040. Edison’s plans come at a time when the Italian government is rethinking a long-standing nuclear ban amid increased efforts to decarbonize the economy.

The dome of Russia’s MBIR multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor has been installed. Russia’s MBIR is being constructed at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) site at Dimitrovgrad and will be the most powerful research reactor in the world at 150Mwt. The MBIR is designed as a multi-loop research reactor capable of testing lead, lead-bismuth and gas coolants, and running on MOX fuel. The MBIR is scheduled to begin operation in 2027 and will have a design life of 50 years.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Centrus Subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating (ACO) started enrichment operations for the first time at the Department of Energy’s enrichment facility in Ohio. ACO has been conducting final systems tests and other preparations to begin enriching limited quantities of uranium hexafluoride gas into high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). ACO will now produce its first HALEU material within the next few weeks, and the demonstration project is on track to produce 20 kilograms of HALEU by the end of the year.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced seven regional clean hydrogen hubs to accelerate the commercial-scale deployment of low-cost, clean hydrogen. Nuclear energy will feature in the plans of several of them, including a large nuclear-powered clean hydrogen production facility at Constellation’s LaSalle plant in Illinois. The announcement is one of the largest investments in clean manufacturing in history, with $7 billion being allocated to these clean hydrogen projects.
The Department of Energy’s MARVEL microreactor achieved 90% of its final design, marking a key step that will allow the project to move forward with fabrication and construction. The 90% stage permits Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to award contracts and proceed with the next steps. MARVEL will be the first new reactor at INL in more than four decades, and it is expected to be completed in early 2025.
Both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto on energy-related legislation passed last month which would designate nuclear energy as a clean energy source. The legislation also lifts some requirements related to the construction of nuclear facilities and expands what the North Carolina Utilities Commission must consider before approving nuclear power projects. This override also aligns with Duke Energy’s plan to make its Belews Creek Steam Station the first nuclear power plant in the state since 1987.
New Mexico’s environmental regulators finalized a 10-year permit extension at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository. The state’s Environment Development said the permit will increase oversight and safeguards while prioritizing the cleanup of nuclear waste at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The permit goes into effect on November 3, following a nine-month public comment period.
Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have used the lab’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility to perform the first loss of coolant accident (LOCA) test carried out in the United States in over 35 years. LOCA testing is a key part of assessing the behavior of nuclear fuels and materials in order to ensure that equipment maintains its intended safety function should an accident occur. The experiment restores the United States’ ability to perform LOCA testing and supports the development of accident tolerant fuels that could extend operating cycles and reduce the amount of fuel needed to operate commercial reactors.
Holtec submitted a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking the reauthorization of power operations at the shuttered Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan. The filing follows a series of public meetings with NRC staff to lay out the path to reauthorize the repowering of the Palisades power plant within the NRC’s existing regulatory framework. Momentum has been building for restarting Palisades, with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing a bill that provides $150 million in funding for the plant’s restart.
The in-service date for the second AP1000 reactor at the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant has been revised after a motor fault was discovered in a reactor coolant pump. The process to replace the pump with an on-site spare has already begun, but the in-service date has now been delayed to the first quarter of 2024. Additionally, Georgia Power agreed to pay the plant’s co-owner, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, $308 million in settlement of an ongoing dispute regarding cost sharing and tender provisions of the joint ownership agreements relating to Vogtle unit 3 and 4.
Outages of U.S. nuclear generating capacity averaged 3.1 gigawatts per day during the summer of 2023, exceeding those in summer 2022 by more than 25%. Nuclear capacity outages peaked in June because some reactors were still offline at the end of the spring refueling and maintenance season. June capacity outages averaged 6.1 GW per day and peaked at 8.3 GW.
Engineering company Fluor and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) extended their contract through 2028. The contract supports the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and supports the management and operation of the Naval Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). The contract was originally awarded in 2018, with a five-year base period of performance and a five-year extension option.
Noteworthy Research
The Atlantic Council published a report on how the European Union (EU) can best capitalize on nuclear energy and how to resolve the ongoing dispute within the EU regarding nuclear power. The paper proposes that the EU reduce Russia’s presence in European nuclear markets and sign a “peace pact” allowing each country to pursue its own energy mix without political interference as part of a bargain. The proposed bargain would recognize that nuclear energy is a crucial part of Europe’s energy mix, ensure the EU adopts a technology-neutral approach in the Green Deal Industrial Plan, while ramping up support for nuclear skills, research, and development, in exchange for further integration of electricity markets and agreement on its reform.

In the IAEA’s annual outlook for nuclear power, the organization reported that installed nuclear power capacity estimates for 2050 have been increased for the third consecutive year. In the new outlook, estimates for 2050 are 24% higher in the “high case projection” than they were in the 2020 report. This growth is driven by growing security of supply concerns, as well as lifetime extensions for nuclear units and enthusiasm for new advanced and small modular reactors. The report’s 2023-50 predictions are based on the status of nuclear power in IAEA Member States at the end of 2022.

The Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) released its annual report documenting uranium supply and demand in the European Union. According to the report, about 97% of natural uranium supplied to the EU in 2022 came from overseas, with Kazakhstan, Niger, and Canada providing 74.19% of the EU’s uranium alone. Additionally, uranium deliveries from Russia decreased by 16% as the bloc implemented efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian uranium and nuclear fuel.
The Nuclear Conversation
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.