In this week’s issue, we examine how the United States and South Korea embarked on a crash course over international nuclear reactor sales and why the continuing dispute is dangerous. We spotlight the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2022 as it explores key questions about the ongoing climate and energy crisis. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
A Preventable Trainwreck
U.S. and South Korean nuclear energy companies have been on a collision course over new international reactor sales for the last three years. Now, this totally preventable trainwreck has come to a head and been hurled into court.
The fuse for this fight was lit by the competition for reactor construction in Saudi Arabia. But the explosion occurred over the pending decision by Poland to purchase up to six new nuclear power plants to replace its dependence on Russian energy.
Washington and Seoul have failed by letting this open wound fester for so long, and potentially leaking bile into other areas of an essential bilateral relationship during an extremely perilous period. As global dangers mount, the timing could not be worse for two critical Western allies to be clashing over high-technology intellectual property.
The lawsuit, initiated by Westinghouse against KEPCO and KHNP, states that the Korean APR-1400 reactor and derivative technologies contain technology Westinghouse licensed to the companies in the past and that is subject to export authorization by the U.S. government.
Westinghouse claims that it is legally responsible for the export of the technology in question, must provide reporting on transfers of information and technology to the U.S. government, and is subject to potential penalties if U.S. export controls are violated.
The Korean companies assert that they have indigenized all of the APR-1400 technologies and therefore are not subject to U.S. export laws. This has been the stalemated skirmish line since the middle of the Trump administration, and it has frozen all government-supported civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
This state-of-play has not been addressed by the Biden administration despite clear signals from the new South Korean president touting the role of his nuclear industry for domestic energy and international sales.
Perhaps the bureaucracies on both sides thought that a joint summit agreement by the leaders to work together on nuclear exports was enough to paper over the fight. If so, that was wrong.

The problem for the Koreans is that, as the Westinghouse filing notes, they agreed that the APR-1400 reactors they built in the United Arab Emirates contained Westinghouse technology. And they provided the American company about $2 billion for it.
It was reported last week that KHNP, Poland’s state-owned power company, and a private Polish energy group were on the verge of signing a letter of intent to construct two of the country’s new reactors. Westinghouse likely is in line for at least two others and was gearing up for its projects. KHNP/KEPCO and Westinghouse also are facing off on new reactor construction in the Czech Republic, which will be decided next year.
Washington has spent years cultivating both Poland and the Czech Republic on the nuclear energy issue in hopes of steering the business to American companies. It is still smoldering over the Koreans taking the UAE’s $20 billion in reactor business that it thought would go to U.S. vendors.
Since the UAE deal, however, South Korea has been hunting for new international reactor buyers. And a few years ago, it looked like Saudi Arabia was the only game in town.
The problem for the Korean companies was, and remains, that the U.S. does not have an agreement for nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia. This means that if U.S. controlled technology is determined to be in the Korean reactor, it would not be able to sell them to KSA until the U.S.-Saudi agreement was in place.
That agreement was a long-shot in the Trump administration. But it is dead now given America’s enraged political reaction to the kingdom’s recent decision to cut oil production when it thought there was a deal to increase output to keep energy prices low in advance of the mid-term election. KSA also dropped Westinghouse from an updated list of authorized bidders for its reactors.
This situation has spooked the Korean companies, and they asserted independence from U.S. reactor componentry to escape American exports controls and its political animosity toward KSA. That now looks like a mistake that has been further compounded by stubbornness. In reality, Washington is desperate to not allow the Saudi nuclear business to go to China. So, it may have to consider compromises that can help the Korean vendors in the kingdom’s bid.
Westinghouse’s suit does not ask that KHNP or KEPCO be prevented from getting business in Poland, or Czech Republic, or Saudi. The suit requests acknowledgment that Westinghouse technology is in the Korean reactors. That allows them to get paid if the Korean reactors are built.
This is a bilateral conflict that began during a period of reactor sales scarcity, but new opportunities have mushroomed from the backlash against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Now the once-dominant reactor exporter, Russia, is being boxed out of some overseas projects, and China has been booted from European nuclear competitions. This creates a number of new reactor construction opportunities in Europe and Asia.
The U.S.-Korea intellectual property fight narrows their collective competitiveness for these new reactor construction projects. Their nuclear vendors have a symbiotic and dependent relationship. Both countries should be identifying ways to work together to keep Russia down, keep China out, and fatten their international reactor order books.
With a global energy crisis looming, the need for nuclear energy as a zero-carbon energy source growing, the need to eliminate reliance on Russian energy pressing, and the authoritarian regime in China becoming more menacing, someone in a position of power in the U.S. and South Korea should rapidly find a face-saving solution to this dispute before it causes real damage.
Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the World Energy Outlook 2022, which provides analysis and insights on the implications of the current climate and energy crisis and the effects on energy systems around the world. Based on the latest energy data and market developments, this year’s WEO explores several key questions, including the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, whether there will be a setback for clean energy transitions or a catalyst for greater action, and which energy security risks lie ahead on the path to net zero emissions. For the first time ever, a WEO scenario based on today’s prevailing policy settings has global demand for every fossil fuel exhibiting a peak or plateau this decade, with global demand for fossil fuels declining from the mid-2020s to 2050.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
In response to Russian allegations that Ukraine is plotting to use a nuclear dirty bomb, Ukraine has requested for the IAEA to send inspectors to two locations in Ukraine in order to carry out safeguards checks. Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations wrote to the UN Secretary General alleging that Ukraine was making a dirty bomb, an allegation that Ukraine denies and warns may be used as a pretext for further escalation of Russia’s ongoing invasion. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that both the locations are under IAEA safeguards and that the IAEA had determined no undeclared nuclear activities or material were found at one of the locations a month prior. Ukraine also countered Russia’s allegation by stating that Russian forces have performed secret work at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant that might indicate plans to build a dirty bomb of its own.
The IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, released a general statement on the situation in Ukraine and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. While the situation at Zaporizhzhia has improved in some places, such as the availability of back-up power, Grossi stressed that the power plant’s power situation remained vulnerable and could deteriorate at any moment. Because of the continued shelling within the vicinity of the site, Grossi maintains that there must be a nuclear safety and security protection zone established around the facility. Grossi also confirmed that IAEA would carry out verification activities at two locations in Ukraine.
Negotiations to establish a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are ongoing. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that recent events, including landmines exploding near the plant, have strengthened the need to reach an agreement as soon as possible on a safety and security zone. However, Ukraine’s Energy Minister, Herman Halushchenko, told Reuters that he saw no signs of progress towards a deal involving Russia, Ukraine, and the IAEA on resolving the situation at Zaporizhzhia. On the other side of the conflict, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair, Sergei Ryabkov, stated that Russia is willing to negotiate on establishing a protective zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant but that any deal to demilitarize the plant is impossible.
Because of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Russia lost its place at the IAEA’s International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century summit in Washington, D.C., held this week. The IAEA confirmed that executives from Rosatom and Russia’s industry regulator were dropped from the agenda of the meeting, with U.S. officials warning that any Russian presence risked turning the meeting into a diplomatic nightmare. This move comes as U.S. authorities and allies seek ways to limit the influence of Russian-controlled atomic fuel and technology suppliers on the global market.
Nuclear Collaborations
The United States and Japan have announced deeper cooperation to support the deployment of advanced reactor technologies through the Winning an Edge Through Cooperation in Advanced Nuclear (WECAN) partnership. WECAN is designed to create viable projects for the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies to support energy security goals, facilitate power-sector decarbonization, and foster decarbonization in other energy sectors.
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) awarded a grant to Romania’s RoPower Nuclear S.A. for a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study to develop the country’s first small modular reactor (SMR). RoPower Nuclear SA selected NuScale Power to carry out the FEED study, with the U.S. State Department contributing funding toward USTDA’s grant award. The SMR plant, which would be the first in Europe, will advance Romania’s clean energy transition and energy security goals.
At the IAEA Nuclear Power Ministerial Conference, the United States and Japan announced a partnership with Ghana to support the deployment of SMR technology in Ghana. As an initial step, the Government of Japan is supporting an SMR feasibility study which will carry out a survey for the potential deployment of a NuScale VOYGR SMR. The announcement follows the visit to Ghana by Deputy Secretary of Energy, David Turk, and an interagency team to enhance cooperation on civil nuclear energy with the Ghanaian government.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan reportedly requested Russia build a second nuclear power plant in Turkey during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rosatom said that talks are underway on a possible deal to build a new, four-reactor plant in Sinop. Turkey’s close ties with Russia come amidst mounting concerns over Ankara’s compliance with financial sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Holtec International and Hyundai Engineering & Construction have agreed to accelerate the program to complete the plant design for the SMR-160. The two companies have been collaborating to develop a standard design, which will be deployable in most regions of the world without any significant modification. The new agreement builds on the teaming agreement signed in 2021, under which Hyundai Engineering & Construction will perform the detailed design of balance of the plant and prepare the full plant construction specifications for the SMR-160.
Canada’s General Fusion and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) will collaborate on projects to advance the commercialization of magnetized target fusion energy. The announcement coincided with the first day of Fusion22, a conference for the industry organized by the UKAEA in London which focused on the steps needed to develop a fusion industry. The projects will help hone the design of General Fusion’s demonstration machine being built at the UK’s fusion cluster at Culham.
Canada and Poland signed an agreement on the development of SMRs in Poland. Laurentis Energy Partners and Synthos Green energy agreed to authorize the international collaboration between the two companies, beginning with early project planning. Ontario Power Generation announced that it would work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to deploy a BWRX-300 SMR at its Darlington site, with the goal of constructing Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR as early as 2028.
Russia and Morocco agreed to install a nuclear power plant in Morocco. This agreement was arranged by the Russian state-run company Rosatom and the agreement encompasses at least 14 sectors to create and develop Morocco’s nuclear infrastructure, including the design of advanced nuclear reactors and the development of uranium deposits.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Canada’s government announced it will provide C$970 million ($708 million) in financing to develop a grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) in Ontario, touted as a key part of the country’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The funding will go toward preparation work required prior to nuclear construction, including project design and site preparation. The reactor is designed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and will be operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). OPGS expects the SMR project to be completed by the end of the decade.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered the country’s three remaining nuclear power stations to keep operating until mid-April of next year. Mr. Scholz’s order overruled the Greens in the ruling coalition, who wanted to keep two plants on standby if needed. Shortly after Scholz’s decision, the German federal cabinet approved Scholz’s executive decision and approved a draft amendment to the Atomic Energy Act that enables the Emsland, Isar 2, and Neckarwestheim 2 plants operational until April 2023 at the latest.
As Poland continues to consider bids for building its first nuclear power plant, U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse has sued in federal court asserting that Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) and the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) reactors that may be deployed in Poland contain Westinghouse technology that is controlled by U.S. export law. The Korean companies have disputed this contention. On October 26, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister said that Poland is likely to choose Westinghouse to build the first nuclear power plant, while KHNP may be involved in a project planned by private companies.
Electricite de France (EDF) postponed the restart of six nuclear reactors amid worker strikes, putting further strain on French power supply as the country grapples with lower-than-usual nuclear output. The strike blocked maintenance work and repairs at the reactors, with delays ranging from one day to three weeks. These delays come as France is already dealing with repairs of some of its reactors ahead of the upcoming winter. On October 21, EDF reached a tentative wage deal with the unions in order to end the strike.
Following the recent election, Sweden’s incoming government will ask state-run utility Vattenfall AB to add nuclear power stations. The Swedish incoming center-right government urged state-owned energy company Vattenfall to look into the possible restart of Ringhals units 1 and 2 in addition to preparing for the construction of new reactors. Nuclear power has garnered more support in Sweden amid the ongoing global energy crisis, with polls ahead of the election showing that 60% of the population surveyed wanted new reactors to complement the drive to expand clean energy.
Slovakia’s nuclear utility Slovenske elektrarne announced that unit 3 of the Mochovce nuclear power plant reached its first criticality on October 22. Commissioning of unit 3 began on September 3 with the loading of nuclear fuel followed by the assembly of the reactor, which ended on September 20. Once the current tests are passed, the next stage will see unit 3 switched from physical to energy launch.
Bangladesh installed a steam generator at unit 2 of the Rooppur site, one of the units will be its first nuclear power plant. Bangladesh’s Science and Technology minister Yeafesh Osman said the overall project was now 53% complete, while Rooppur’s Project Director Shaukat Akbar said they were hoping to be fully ready to supply electricity in 2024. The Rooppur nuclear power plant will have two Russian VVER-1200 reactors with a capacity of 2,400 megawatts electrical (MWe).
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) will review for the extension of the two Sendai reactors in south west Japan. Kyushu Electric Power Co announced that they applied for a 20-year extension for Sendai 1 and 2. Prime Minister Kishida intends to mobilize the collective efforts of all parties concerned toward restarting operations, and to extend the operating period on the premise of ensuring safety. Furthermore, he emphasized that during the coming winter, nine of the ten restarted reactors should be online.
Westinghouse Electric Company has reported that it will add two AP1000 technology-based reactors at the Lianjiang nuclear power plant in Zhanjiang, China. A total of six units have been planned at the site and the site preparation works at Lianjian Unit 1 are already underway. Westinghouse announced that four of its AP1000 units are currently running in China. China’s AP1000 derivatives stem from technology transfer agreements between China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. (SNPTC) and Westinghouse to standardize the reactor technology and enable domestic production of components.
Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 reactor unit is set to be delayed by about two weeks to the end of 2022. The delay is due to damage found in the feedwater pumps located in the unit’s turbine island during a testing phase, with regular power production now scheduled for December 27. Once operational, the three reactors at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant will produce 40% of Finland’s electricity.
The IAEA conducted its Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission in Finland, hosted by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). During the mission, the team conducted interviews with management and staff from STUK, several government ministries, and the STUK’s Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety in order to review the regulatory oversight of facilities and activities using nuclear material and radiation sources. The IAEA team found that Finland has strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety.
Finland began a two-year feasibility study to examine the precondition for nuclear new build in Finland and Sweden. This study will examine both SMRs and conventional large reactors led by Fortum. Fortum operated the first nuclear power plant in Finland, the Loviisa plant. In March, Fortum applied to operate both units 1 and 2 of the plant until the end of 2050.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
As the United States is advancing plans to develop and deploy advanced nuclear reactors, U.S. policymakers will have to counteract Russia’s current monopoly on high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). In response, the U.S. government is urgently looking to use some of its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium to help fuel new advanced reactors. In 2019, the U.S. government awarded a shared-cost contract to Centrus, the only company outside of Russia which currently has a license to make HALEU, to build a demonstration facility.
The Department of Energy (DoE) announced $38 million for a dozen projects that will develop spent reactor fuel separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance. Led by DoE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), numerous teams comprising universities, private companies, and national laboratories have been selected to develop technologies to advance spent fuel recycling, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide safe domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks.
The Biden Administration announced $150 million in funding for infrastructure improvements at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to enhance nuclear energy research and development. The funding will support nearly a dozen projects at INL’s Advanced Test Reactor and Materials Fuels Complex, as well as accelerate the replacement of aging plant infrastructure systems to ensure both facilities remain operational in supporting nuclear research and development.
Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A), a General Electric-led joint venture, and TerraPower announced an agreement to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at the site of GNF-A’s existing plant site near Wilmington, North Carolina. The facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and the Department of Energy through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). Construction of the Natrium Fuel Facility is anticipated to begin in 2023.
The United States’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility is set to be commissioned and operational by 2025 in Oak Ridge Tennessee. TRISO-X LLC submitted a license application earlier this year to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3). X-energy’s reactor technology is receiving funding under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
Georgia Power announced that the fuel load into the Vogtle Unit 3 reactor core has begun, marking a pivotal milestone towards the startup and commercial operation of the United States’ first new nuclear units in more than three decades. The start of Unit 3’s fuel load comes after Southern Nuclear received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Vogtle Unit 3 is projected to enter service in the first quarter of 2023.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that he will propose $10 million in the upcoming budget to create the Virginia Power Innovation Fund. The Fund will go towards researching affordable power solutions, with half of the $10 million going towards establishing a nuclear research fund. According to the release, the funds will award grants to colleges and universities to study small modular nuclear reactors.
Southern Company and TerraPower have completed construction and installation of a new test facility, the Integrated Effects Test (IET), at TerraPower’s laboratory in Washington state. The facility will be the world’s largest chloride salt system which will be used in the development of TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR). The IET will also support the development and operation of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at the Idaho National Laboratory.
Noteworthy Research
The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report on the challenges and opportunities presented by small modular reactors (SMR). The value proposition of SMR technology includes higher modularization, financing, and system integration benefits. However, large-scale deployment of SMRs faces several technical, economic, regulatory, and supply chain challenges and will need considerable governmental efforts and efficient international collaborative frameworks to be realized in the next decade.

The IAEA released the 2022 edition of its Country Nuclear Power Profiles. Thirty countries contributed new or updated information for the 2022 edition, ranging from those with operational and expanding nuclear power programs to newcomers considering nuclear power. The 2022 edition also highlights key trends such as the increase in the number of national commitments to the development of nuclear power infrastructure, increased collaboration among IAEA member countries, the agency, and various other stakeholders, and progress in research and development to bring on board advanced reactor designs.

The peer-reviewed journal Nuclear Science and Engineering released a new special issue on the Department of Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project. The issue presents a current snapshot of the nuclear innovation project, which is being developed in partnership among the DoE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, six national labs, and a host of industry and university partners. Nuclear Science Engineering also describes the benefits that the VTR project would have for the U.S. nuclear energy industry, including enhancing the global competitiveness of the U.S. nuclear energy industry and promoting nuclear safety and security. If appropriated by Congress, the sodium-cooled VTR would be the first fast-spectrum test reactor to operate in the United States in nearly three decades.
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Yeseul Woo, 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.