In this issue, we highlight Russian cooperation with partners in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Additionally, we focus on developments in Iran's nuclear power infrastructure. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Energy has been developing new technologies and apparatus to maintain safe civil nuclear energy use.
Responding to Nuclear Nervousness in the Middle East
New developments in the Middle East are raising concerns about whether the region will become the world’s next nuclear hot spot. While the escalating situation stokes international anxiety, it has not stimulated an effective, comprehensive nuclear security policy response.

The reality is that multiple nuclear facilities will be operating in several countries in the region inside of two decades. The challenges are potential nuclear weapons proliferation, the security of operating power plants, and the battle for geopolitical influence that results from nuclear exports.

The most glaring recent worry is the statement by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he cannot accept continued restrictions on his country’s development of nuclear weapons. Erdogan’s complaint about nuclear restraint may be bluster, but Turkey is loosening its ties with its NATO allies, despite the fact that roughly 50 U.S. nuclear weapons are stationed at the Incirlik Air Base and that the security of these weapons is a concern .

In its turn away from its NATO allies, Turkey increasingly is siding with Russia in both foreign policy objectives and nuclear development. Russia is building the Akkuyu nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

Other regional powers including the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Egypt are operating or building new nuclear power plants, the latter two with Russian support. Iran also is raising weapons proliferation tensions by increasingly stepping back from the restrictions of the 2015 nuclear deal from which the U.S. has withdrawn.

Saudi Arabia, in part responding to Iran’s nuclear advances, is pursuing a slow-moving tender for the construction of two new nuclear power plants. A gnawing question is whether the Saudi’s will try to use the program as a cover to go nuclear . This concern has fueled a simmering dispute between the Kingdom and the U.S. over the non-proliferation terms of the agreement that is legally required for U.S. companies to provide the Saudis’ with major nuclear reactor components and assistance.

The situation is further complicated because South Korea, the UAE’s nuclear supplier and a contender for the Saudi reactors, may be prevented from reaching a deal as U.S. technology used in their current reactors requires a U.S.-Saudi nuclear cooperation agreement. The Koreans are claiming independence from U.S. technology in their most recent reactor design, but this has created a dispute with the U.S., which rejects the claim. This fight has weakened a civil nuclear alliance between the two key countries that neither can afford and that may allow Russia or China to establish yet another nuclear beachhead in the Persian Gulf.

A new worry was created by the recent precision guided missile attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaia oil facility and the inability of defenses to detect or defeat it. This could threaten existing and proposed nuclear facilities in the region and the weapons could potentially be launched by non-state actors raising terrorism risks. But, emerging disruptive weapons technologies like high speed, precision drones are a threat to any large, static critical infrastructure , and the challenge is in how to respond to, or deter, these attacks to which all nations are vulnerable. 
It now is inevitable that several Middle Eastern nations will have nuclear power capabilities in the next two decades. But this reality does not seem to have resulted in a coherent nuclear security strategy for the region. Instead, policy making in individual issue silos persists.

There are several policies that should be considered in concert.

The U.S. needs to strengthen its position as a civil nuclear supplier in the Middle East. Achieving this alone will be difficult for a number of reasons. It can work most effectively by rapidly identifying a mutual accommodation with South Korea that allows both nations to operate as a nuclear supply team promoting high standards in the region.

The fuel cycle policy for the region’s new reactors needs to be more coherent and realistic. Restricting nations from reserving the right to enrich uranium for reactor fuel may prove to be a pyrrhic victory if Iran solely retains the capability or it hands control to Moscow or Beijing who have ulterior geopolitical motives. There are approaches to enrichment and reprocessing that can keep the technology at bay in the region without explicitly banning it. But that will require deftness and compromise and there’s undeniably risk associated with this approach if the oversight is not stringent.

The U.S. and its allies need to get much more serious about moving next generation advanced reactors into the deployment pipeline. The Middle East is a candidate area for these reactors which can address growing water scarcity concerns and provide distributed electricity to a growing population, potentially with lower proliferation and security risks.

The system of global nuclear security needs to be significantly improved. Emerging disruptive technologies like precision guided munitions, swarming drones, and cyberattacks need to be addressed as part of an overall critical infrastructure protection process, but their challenges affect all nuclear operating nations and require additional attention and more effective responses. When the IAEA convenes a special meeting on nuclear security early next year, policy responses to emerging threats need to be a priority.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security

The Global Nexus Initiative Report, published in June 2019, has received a 2019 GD USA's American Graphic Design Award, the second design award that a GNI publication has received.
Nuclear Collaboration
The United Arab Emirates has decided to purchase Russian nuclear fuel as the country seeks to further its civil nuclear energy program. Both countries have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a number of other nuclear-related issues.

British and Chinese nuclear teams have come to Iran to discuss redesigning and upgrading the country’s Arak heavy water reactor. These moves by Britain and China reflect their commitment to uphold the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).

Rosatom is ready to cooperate with U.S., European, and Asian partners in building a nuclear power plant (NPP) in Saudi Arabia.

Russia and Serbia have agreed to jointly establish a Center for Nuclear Science, Technology, and Innovation in Serbia. Both countries have previously signed joint agreements on the development and peaceful use of nuclear energy.   
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
On October 10, the South Korean Navy announced that it was considering a plan to develop a nuclear submarine. Although the plan is still in its deliberation phase, it represents South Korea’s aspiration to maintain a modern, effective navy. 

The French government has requested for state utility EDF to prepare plans for constructing six European pressurized reactors (EPRs) in the country over the next 15 years. These new reactors are expected to complement a current NPP in Flamanville.

France’s Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne has said that France could pursue a 100% renewable energy dependence policy but that various options are under consideration including construction of new nuclear reactors. The State controlled utility EDF had indicated France is preparing to build new reactors.  

On October 21, U.S. energy secretary Rick Perry spoke at the first U.S.-European Union High-level forum on small modular reactors, touting the benefits of these technologies in reducing electricity dependencies and powering developing nations.

The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called for the country to build new NPPs to replace its ageing coal and nuclear facilities, even though this could breach European Union law. The country depends on NPPs for more than a third of its energy consumption.

The International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol has argued that nuclear energy should remain in the global energy mix to tackle climate change. In Europe, within two decades, its nuclear power could have as little as a 4 percent share of the continent’s energy mix.

China’s Zhangzhou NPP was recently issued construction licenses to construct two domestically-designed Hualong One reactors.  

The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAEA) has announced that its lead-bismuth test reactor has reached first criticality. CIAEA can now begin core parameter tests to facilitate the development of liquid metal cooled fast reactors. 

Japan Atomic Power Company is expected to receive around 350 billion yen to resume operations at an NPP located near Tokyo. These funds are intended to provide the proper infrastructure to ensure the safety of the ageing plant. 

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced that it will start construction of a second unit at its Bushehr NPP, starting in November.  

Russia's Rosatom has called upon African nations to develop their nuclear energy capacities, offering its full support to develop partner countries’ national nuclear energy programs across the entire lifecycle. This news follows the African Nuclear Business Platform in which country representatives expressed heightened interest in advancing peaceful civil nuclear energy use.

South Africa’s sole NPP will have its operational status extended by 20 years, until 2044. The country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which sets out South Africa’s electricity infrastructure development policy, calls for nuclear energy to remain a critical component of the country’s future energy mix. 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called for a review of a Nuclear Energy Agreement with a Russian company to study the feasibility of small nuclear reactors. Although the agreement is being reviewed for its constitutionality, it represents a push by Duterte to strengthen ties with Russia. Meanwhile, the Philippine Senate will investigate the status of the country’s nuclear energy program.

India is planning to build 21 new NPPs by 2030, with seven currently under construction and 17 on the way. An Indian official has argued for the importance of nuclear energy in satisfying the rising energy demands of the country.   

With a shipment of low-enriched uranium (LEU), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has started the operations of its Kazakhstan-based LEU bank, which will provide a reserve of fuel for IAEA member nations that experience a supply disruption. This bank is set to operate for twenty years.    
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has announced that it will merge its Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation with its Office of New Reactors. This is aimed at improving internal coordination, balancing the staff’s workload, and providing a more flexible response mechanisms system in managing NPPs.

The Department of Energy and the NRC have signed an MoU to collaborate on fast-tracking the development of advanced nuclear technologies. This agreement aims to assist private companies test and develop these technologies. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies 
University of North Texas Associate Professor Haifeng Zhang and the Pacific Northwest National Lab are working on developing a new generation of NPP sensors. Zhang argues that current sensor technology do not last long and are difficult to replace.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is producing 3D-printed parts that are used to facilitate recycling of long-term spent nuclear fuel.  

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a Purdue University-affiliated startup almost $7 million to utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine the most safe and efficient means to replace reactor components.  

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute has recently held a forum to discuss how to deploy robots to deal with NPP disasters. The attendees explored methods to clean up nuclear waste quickly, safely, and efficiently. 

The IAEA has developed a safety assessment methodology system for NPPs with multiple reactors. This system will provide guidance on multi-unit probabilistic safety assessments (MUPSAs).   
Noteworthy Research
The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and the Respiratory Health Association have released a joint report on the impact of closing NPPs on human health. The report, using case studies from Illinois, highlights both the health and economic costs of ending NPP use.

The Atlantic Council has recently released a report that explores the value of the civilian nuclear power sector on the U.S. national security apparatus. It finds that nuclear power is essential for guaranteeing U.S. national security, contributing to a robust defense, foreign policy, and energy security.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures released a new report analyzing the state of corporate climate reporting, and challenges associated with the implementation. This report provides a mixed assessment finding signs of adoption of previous disclosure practices, but that “not enough companies are disclosing decision-useful climate-related financial information.” This report follows news of ongoing EU negotiations regarding proposed sustainable investment rules.

A joint report between NATO’s four Centres of Excellence argues that Rosatom should be viewed as a significant actor in the European nuclear energy sector due to its business interests outside of Europe. Titled “Nuclear energy and the current security environment in the era of hybrid threats,” the report looks at nuclear energy, with a particular focus on Baltic countries.

The U.K.’s Chief Nuclear Inspector has recently completed a performance report on the nation’s NPP installations. Although the country’s nuclear industry met required safety and security standards, areas of improvement include managing ageing facilities, maintaining health and safety performance, and enhancing the security culture.  
The Nuclear Conversation
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