In this week’s issue, we analyze the advantages and challenges of nuclear energy cooperation between the United States and South Korea. We spotlight an interview with Partnership for Global Security President Ken Luongo on the United States’ and China’s nuclear strategies and potential for cooperation or rivalry. Finally, we highlight key nuclear technology, security, and geopolitical developments, reports, and analyses.
Challenges and Advantages of U.S.-R.O.K. Nuclear Energy Cooperation
Yeseul Woo, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security

World Geostrategic Insights (WGI) recently interviewed the Partnership for Global Security’s President Ken Luongo on the numerous factors pushing nuclear power back into the global agenda. Additionally, Luongo discusses the United States’ nuclear strategy as defined by the International Nuclear Energy Act, China’s nuclear energy policy, and the relationship between China and the United States in nuclear energy. Luongo and WGI assess the prospects for a U.S.-China nuclear partnership, as well as the possibility for a greater energy and geopolitical rivalry between the two countries in nuclear affairs.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
On September 2, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and a team of experts traveled to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to conduct nuclear safety and security safeguards activities. Grossi said the team assessed the damage, working conditions, and other safety considerations at the plant amidst continued shelling in the vicinity and concerns that Russia might try to convert the facility into a military base against Ukrainian forces. Four of the six IAEA experts left the site after the five-day visit, with the remaining two members staying behind to continue monitoring the situation and provide updates.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for both an immediate stop to shelling in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and a more formal nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant. Issues being discussed by IAEA staff include the radius of the zone and the role of IAEA staff in enforcing the barrier. In response to this proposal, Ukraine and Russia have both expressed interest in creating the protection zone as damage from ongoing shelling continues to threaten the power plant’s safety.
According to Reuters, a draft IAEA resolution calls on Russia to cease all actions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and end its occupation of the facility. The draft resolution comes from Poland and Canada in preparation for next week’s meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, with diplomats saying the aim is to end Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which still poses a nuclear disaster risk. The draft has yet to be formally submitted to next week’s board meeting, where it will be debated and voted on.
Following weeks of shelling around the area, Ukraine announced they will power down the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant’s sixth and final working reactor. Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency Energoatom said that power lines had been restored to the reactor but that they would shut down Reactor No. 6 as a precaution and prepare it to be cooled. The entire plant has been cut off the electricity grid for several days because of Russia’s ongoing invasion, with Reactor No. 6 powering the rest of the plant’s cooling systems.
Amidst the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant, nearby shelling continues to disrupt the reactor’s operations. A week before the IAEA team arrived, two of the six reactors were reconnected to the national grid following shelling that caused the plant to be disconnected for the first time in its history. Russia and Ukraine have each accused each other of trying to sabotage the IAEA mission. According to Ukrainian energy minister Herman Galushchenko, a fire resulting from the shelling had severed Zaporizhzhia plant’s last connection on September 5 to the reserve line that provided its only source of outside power.
Nuclear Collaborations
The Polish government has received an offer from U.S. company Westinghouse on how they can cooperate on building nuclear energy projects in Poland. The report is a detailed bilateral roadmap planning the construction of six large-scale reactors based on U.S technology as Warsaw is currently seeking a partner to build 6 to 9 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. Westinghouse is competing with French and Korean companies that have also submitted offers to build Poland’s first nuclear power plants.
Westinghouse Electric Company and Spanish nuclear company ENUSA announced their intent to collaborate on VVER-440 fuel fabrication. The expanded partnership will work to provide a Western alternative to Russian fuel in the European market, where 16 nuclear reactors currently operate on VVER-440 fuel.
Romanian utility Nuclearelectrica and Polish copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedz SA signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the development of small modular reactors (SMR). The MoU aims for the exchange of experience in numerous fields for the development of SMR projects to be developed by Romania and Poland. Both companies have previously signed agreements with U.S. company NuScale on the development of its SMR technology.
Rolls-Royce SMR signed a memorandum of understanding with Czech nuclear industrial company Skoda JS to explore areas of collaboration and the deployment of small modular reactors (SMR) in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Central Europe. Under the MoU, both companies will work together to understand how Skoda JS can support the efficient deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants. Rolls-Royce previously signed an MoU with Czech utility CEZ in 2020 on the exploration of SMRs in the Czech Republic.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has joined a British advanced reactor project that hopes to develop high-temperature gas reactors (HTGR) by the early 2030s. The United Kingdom’s National Nuclear Laboratory is leading the project. The team intends to complete a study this year and hopes to begin creating detailed designs in 2023, with construction starting as soon as 2025.
U.S. company Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation and Korean firm Hyundai Engineering entered a framework agreement extending collaboration in the deployment of micro modular reactors. Under the agreement, Hyundai Engineering will bring its supplier network to support procurement of materials and services to Ultra Safe Nuclear’s modular micro reactor projects. The two companies also signed an MoU to develop a “Multi-Purpose High Temperature Reactor” (MP-HTR) for both nuclear power and hydrogen production.
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) signed a contract with Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport to construct some 80 buildings and structures at the El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt, as well as procuring and supplying equipment for the turbine islands. According to KHNP, the aim is for commercial operation of the first unit in 2028. This is the first large-scale nuclear project for KHNP since winning the contract to build the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah plant in 2009.
Rolls-Royce SMR signed an exclusive agreement with Dutch nuclear energy development company ULC-Energy BV to collaborate on the deployment of Rolls-Royce small modular power plants in the Netherlands. ULC-Energy BV aims to accelerate decarbonization in the Netherlands by developing nuclear energy projects. In 2021, the Dutch government placed nuclear power at the heart of its climate and energy policy, anticipating to provide as much as €5 billion for nuclear power projects by 2030.
NuScale Power and Estonian nuclear power company Fermi Energia signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate the deployment of a NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Estonia by 2031. NuScale’s technology was one of those chosen in 2019 by Fermi for a feasibility study on the suitability of SMRs for Estonia’s electricity supply and climate goals beyond 2030. According to Fermi Energia’s latest survey, the company’s plans for SMR deployment are growing in popularity in Estonia, with 69% of those polled supporting such a project.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Amidst the deepening energy crisis spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s government has decided to keep two of its three nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply. The Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim power plants will be kept operational until April 2023 to bolster Germany’s energy supply as well as the European Union’s shared electricity market. However, Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected calls for his government to commit to a longer-term extension of the country’s nuclear power plants’ lifespan, insisting that Germany would have enough energy to get through the winter.
In response to a recent shipment of Russian uranium to a reprocessing facility in Lingen, Germany, the German government said that it cannot stop the shipment because atomic fuel is not covered by the European Union’s sanctions on Russia. The uranium is scheduled to be reprocessed at the Lingan facility before being shipped to French nuclear power plants. Environmentalist groups have called for Germany to block the shipment and end all uranium procurements from Russia.
Germany is seeking to initiate talks with Switzerland over Swiss plans to build a nuclear waste repository close to its border with Germany. The German government has already criticized the proposed repository, which will be located just 2 kilometers from the German border, and its potential environmental impact on nearby communities. The Swiss waste repository will store nuclear waste from Switzerland’s four operational nuclear power plants.
France’s Minister for Energy Transition announced that EDF is committed to restarting all its nuclear reactors by the upcoming winter to help the country through the ongoing energy crisis. France relies on nuclear energy for about 67% of its electricity, but 32 of its 56 reactors are currently shut down for maintenance and for corrosion problems. Previously, EDF said that the shutdowns of four nuclear reactors would be extended for several weeks, expected to resume output between November 1 and January 23 of next year.
Going into the upcoming winter season, the United Kingdom is set to close down two units at the Heysham nuclear power plant between October and November for maintenance. Additionally, more nuclear closures are scheduled over the following winter months. Nuclear output makes up roughly 15% of Britain’s energy mix, and the planned shutdowns are likely to challenge electricity production and potentially lead to energy rationing and blackouts.
The United Kingdom’s government announced plans to invest £3.3million ($3.8 million) to support the development of advanced reactor technology. The Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development and Demonstration program (AMR RD&D) will be divided into two parts. The first is for projects developing advanced modular high-temperature gas reactor (HTGR) technologies, and the second is for projects developing coated particle fuel (CPF) for HTGR technologies. This program aims to demonstrate HTGR technology by the early 2030s.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo issued a declaration transferring the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization (GNPPO) from the Ministry of Energy to the Office of the President. This is the most recent step taken by Ghana’s government in considering the adoption of nuclear power. Previously, Ghana announced that five vendors had responded to a request for interest in helping the country build its first plant, with an expectation that a contract for a 1 gigawatt electrical plant would be signed by 2025.
Russia has begun construction on the first of four floating nuclear power plants that will power the forthcoming Baimskaya copper and gold mine. The barge containing two RTIM-200S pressurized water reactors was built in China and will be transferred to Cape Nagloynyn by the end of next year. Russia already has one floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, which is stationed at the town of Pevek.
The South Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy published a draft long-term energy plan for its country. The draft emphasizes increasing nuclear energy for the next 15 years and calls for 201.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity to be generated with nuclear power by 2030, which is almost one-third of the country’s total energy mix. The energy plan will be finalized by the end of this year after an environmental assessment, public hearings, and consultations with other ministries.
Mexico granted an extension for the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant’s second reactor, which will take the lifetime of the plant into the mid-2050s. Laguna Verde is the only nuclear power plant in Mexico, and Mexico’s government previously extended the operating license for Laguna Verde 1 in 2020. Nuclear power currently provides 3-4% of Mexico’s electricity, but an August 2022 report issued by Mexico’s Ministry of Energy foresees nuclear energy more than doubling to around 23.5 GWh from 2031 onwards.
The Slovak Nuclear Regulatory Authority (UJD) issued the final authorization for commissioning of the Mochovce nuclear power plant unit 3. The plant’s operator, Slovenske elektrarne, expects to start loading fuel into the reactor’s core ahead of its commissioning. Generation from Mochovce 3 will cover about 13% of Slovakia’s total electricity consumption, increasing the share of nuclear energy in the country’s total electricity mix to 65%.
Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co. (MNF) is set to resume production of pressurized water reactor fuel at its refurbished Tokai plant after receiving approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. MNF suspended production at the fabrication plant in 2018 while construction work was carried out to meet new regulatory standards following the Fukushima accident in 2011. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called for Japan to restart its idled nuclear power reactors and look into expanding nuclear energy.
Hungary’s National Atomic Energy Office (OAH) has granted a construction license for two VVER-1200 reactors at the Paks II nuclear power plant. The Paks II project was launched in 2014 by an intergovernmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two reactors supplied by Rosatom. Rosatom noted that this marked the first time a construction license has been issued for a VVER-1200 reactor in the European Union.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The California state legislature passed a bill that will enable the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant to continue operation until 2030 and to lend $1.4 billion to the plant’s operator, PG&E. In 2016, California’s state government and PG&E agreed to close the plant in 2025 due to safety concerns in the case of a major earthquake and as environmental groups pressured lawmakers to do more to meet the state’s renewable energy goals. However, California’s inability to avoid rolling blackouts in recent years prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to reconsider closing Diablo Canyon. The Diablo Canyon plant is the state’s single largest power source, generating 6% of California’s electricity last year.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer published a letter asking the Department of Energy to support Holtec’s plans to reopen the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. Whitmer also called for the DoE’s support of a federal loan guarantee for Palisades through the Loan Program Office (LPO), although Holtec International has not indicated that it applied for a loan guarantee for the Palisades facility. Palisades was formerly operated by Entergy International, which closed the facility in May 2022.
According to the fifth consecutive ecoAmerica American Climate Perspectives Survey, a majority of U.S. respondents believe nuclear energy is a big part of tackling ongoing energy problems and climate change. Among the questions answered, 70% said nuclear energy reliably generates a lot of electricity, 69% believed nuclear helps the economy while reducing pollution, and 68% said that nuclear plants should be kept running until lower-cost renewable energy becomes available. Across the five years of the survey, Americans’ concerns about nuclear energy have also decreased.
The U.S. Department of Energy granted Core Power, MIT Energy Initiative, and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) research funds under the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). The funds are for a three-year study into the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation in the United States. The DoE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) created UNEP in 2009 to consolidate university support under one initiative and better integrate university research.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has redirected about $10 million from the IAEA’s low-enriched uranium fuel bank to efforts supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. The IAEA previously informed the United States that it did not anticipate needing all $50 million of the original donated funds for the LEU bank. The $10 million will support three IAEA projects: The African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development, and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA); the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL); and the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
The Biden administration’s climate-and-tax bill signed into law in August includes $700 million for the government’s efforts to develop a more energy-dense nuclear fuel. Previously, developing a strategy to develop high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) had just $45 million appropriated by Congress for the fiscal year 2022. More than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030, with additional amounts required each year to run a new fleet of advanced reactors. To meet these requirements, the Department of Energy plans to demonstrate two next-generation nuclear reactors before the end of the decade.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Silex Systems Ltd. completed the first full-scale laser system module for deployment in Global Laser Enrichment’s (GLE) commercial pilot demonstration facility after eight months of testing. The laser-based uranium enrichment module was designed, built, and tested at Silex’s laser technology development center in Lucas Heights, Australia. The module will eventually be shipped to GLE’s facility in the United States for installation, and GLE plans to complete the commercial pilot demonstration project by the mid-2020s.

A Chinese nuclear reactor for providing power and propulsion in outer space passed a comprehensive performance evaluation by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The Chinese Academy of Sciences designed the reactor which can generate 1 megawatt of electricity from spacecraft power supply and propulsion. The project was initiated in 2019 as a national key research and development program.
Noteworthy Research
Following its recent mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the IAEA issued its report on the situation in Ukraine. Along with summarizing the current state of the power plant and surrounding areas, the IAEA provided seven recommendations on how to improve safety and security at the plant as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues. Among these recommendations are for both sides to come to an agreement that would stop the shelling on site and in the vicinity of the plant, that a physical protection system should be operated as designed and licensed, that Ukraine and Russia contribute to ensuring supply chains, and that emergency response facilities be re-established.
A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy found that hundreds of coal power plant sites across the United States could be converted to nuclear plant sites. The report screened 157 retired and 237 operating coal plant sites as a potential candidate for coal-to-nuclear transition. The Department of Energy states that 80% of the potential sites are suitable for hosting advanced nuclear power plants of varying size and type. The study also found that a coal-to-nuclear transition could help increase U.S. nuclear capacity from 95 gigawatts electrical (GWe) to 350 GWe. Additionally, reusing existing coal infrastructure for new advanced reactors could reduce construction costs by 15 to 35%.
Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report on the history of nuclear reactor financing with recommendations for U.S. policymakers. The report compares the financing terms offered between 2000 and 2021 by five major exporters of nuclear power plants: Russia, France, South Korea, China, and the United States. The report paid particular attention to Russia, which financed 11 reactors connected to power grids in six countries during the period studied. Some of the recommendations made include that Congress should ensure that EXIM Bank can effectively match offers coming from Russia and China and that the U.S. government should seek to strengthen nuclear energy cooperation between the United States and its allies to aid its competition against Russia and China.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission published the Ninth National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) describing the U.S. government’s actions under the convention to maintain a high level of safety for the country’s nuclear power plants. The report documents how the United States is meeting its obligations established by the CNS and addresses the status of safety topics identified in the previous national report, including accident-tolerant fuel and changes to the Reactor Oversight Process. The report also identifies challenges and topics of heightened interest such as advanced reactor construction at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant and digital instrumental and control upgrades.
Research conducted at the Dutch university TU Delft for C-Job Naval Architects concluded that nuclear energy could be applied as marine propulsion in the future.The research identified large ocean-going vessels as having the most potential for nuclear propulsion, finding that the nuclear option is lighter and more compact than the conventional marine diesel fuel tank. Additionally, the study highlights that there can be up to a 98% reduction in CO2 emissions from ocean vessels compared to conventional fuel-based systems. C-Job concluded that the Molten Salt Reactor has the potential in the long term for commercial maritime shipping.
The Nuclear Conversation
The National News, September 14
CBS News, September 14
The Hill, September 13
Forbes, September 12
Bloomberg, September 12
Forbes, September 12
AP News, September 10
Utility Dive, September 9
Newsweek, September 7
The Wall Street Journal, September 6
Oil Price, September 5
Nature, September 5
The Wall Street Journal, September 2
Oil Price, September 1
Axios, August 31
Forbes, August 31
Cal Matters, August 30
The New York Times, August 30
Forbes, August 30
Forbes, August 30
NPR, August 30
The Economist, August 29
AP News, August 29
The Hill, August 29
NPR, August 29
The Wall Street Journal, August 28
American Nuclear Society, August 26
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.