In this week’s issue, we discuss the creation of the Indo-Pacific Security Partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States known as “AUKUS,” and how this process could serve as a template for the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies in inexperienced nations. We also spotlight Global America Business Institute’s latest brief, written by PGS, on the importance of incorporating climate change, advanced technologies, and civil nuclear cooperation into a broader U.S.-South Korea engagement dialogue.
Leveraging Advanced Technology for Geopolitical Advantage
The surprise new security pact between Australia, Britain, and America (AUKUS) is a geopolitical game changer in part because it starkly features the provision of advanced technology as a critical component of curbing China’s growing global influence.
This approach copies a core of China’s strategy for capturing nations through long-term economic ensnarement and augments it with military and deterrence utility that serves to defend democratic principles and institutions. It, however, is not every democratic nation’s cup of tea.
At the heart of the deal is the creation of an Australian nuclear-powered submarine fleet totaling eight or more ships. The subs will not be armed with nuclear weapons.
It’s a shocking development because of the willingness of the U.S. and U.K to share their sensitive naval nuclear technology. Since their 1958 mutual defense agreement, neither country has extended their naval nuclear bubble to other nations. The U.S. is explaining this as a "one-off" submarine deal not the beginning of a new global initiative. But that may not hold.
A clear concern is focused on the various precedents that the AUKUS submarine arrangement will create. The assumption is that the naval reactors will be fueled with nuclear weapon-grade highly-enriched uranium, as that is the fuel for both the U.S. and U.K. subs. Both of those nations are nuclear weapons states and Australia is not.
Australia also does not possess the deep nuclear knowledge and infrastructure of its partner nations, necessitating the rapid development of a robust support system.
The Australian government has made clear that, “responsible nuclear stewardship is fundamental” for the program to move forward and that it will, “maintain our exemplary nuclear non-proliferation credentials [and] engage regularly with international and national nuclear regulators.”
But another precedent to consider is how this new arrangement can impact the process of exporting American and allied nation civil nuclear technologies in support of carbon reduction, energy security, and economic advancement – all important geopolitical concerns.
Just as the U.S. nuclear Navy blazed the path to civilian nuclear power almost 70 years ago, naval nuclear power under AUKUS may create a process that the next-generation of civil nuclear energy can follow.
The decisions on the details of the submarine deal will be worked out over the next 18 months. But the process is already pretty clear – (1) sign up for the technology in advance; (2) develop the governance, training, and infrastructure required to safety and securely operate it; and (3) receive product delivery and likely cooperate with experienced nations on nuclear operations for some period of time.
This is an approach that needs to be considered for the next-generation of civil nuclear energy if the U.S. and its allies want to win the nuclear component of the global clean energy competition. The essence of this export strategy shift has three components.
First, get pre-commitments from embarking nuclear nations to purchase U.S.-qualified small modular or advanced reactors. The U.S. and its allies would provide training, governance, and nuclear infrastructure development and qualified operators for the reactor for the first 10-15 years.
Second, create a sustainable energy archipelago of nations in the developing economy world that are allied with U.S. and allied nuclear technology and values. Match the small reactors with the renewable energy technologies in the country in an integrated package that ensures steady, uninterrupted, diversified clean energy flow.
Third, provide financing that supports vendors and manufacturing scale, offers grants and low-interest loans to importing nations based on economic need and degree of climate change impact, and allows multilateral financial cooperation among key allied supply chain partners and funds for relevant international institutions.
One reason this new export strategy need to be seriously considered is that the upcoming global summit on climate change is likely to fall short of preventing a continually warming planet.
The U.N. has starkly stated that the global temperature will rise by 2.7 degree Celsius even if all current national commitments are kept. India and China have indicated a reluctance to significantly expand their greenhouse gas reduction promises. The expansive green energy package of the Biden administration is in trouble on Capitol Hill.
This climate tightrope is narrowing the room for debate over whether one carbon neutral technology is morally superior to another. This zero-carbon vice grip already has pushed some reluctant industrial nations, including Japan and South Korea, to more fully embrace the clean energy potential of next-generation nuclear energy.
These nations have little political or geographic space for the massive amount of renewable energy required to maintain their economies. They also are looking at the U.K. and what happens to energy prices and economic productivity when dependency on intermittent power sources fail.
These same issues also are going to vex small, developing economy nations in Africa and Asia, which have growing populations, urbanization, and energy demand and which are financially less equipped to be competitive in a carbon-neutral world.
The political, technological, and military challenges from China are driving major democracies to remarkable new thinking, and in the process it is blowing holes in timeworn policy silos.
AUKUS offers a striking combination of the offer of advanced nuclear technology to a relatively inexperienced nation in harness to the objectives of blunting China’s geopolitical aggressiveness and preserving democratic norms. This process will necessitate new nuclear guardrails, but they will be built on the terms of strong non-proliferation nations. This process can provide a template for a global civil nuclear sector that also needs to fend off authoritarian nation control but is still in harness to old policy approaches.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

In a new brief from the Global America Business Institute (GABI), PGS president Ken Luongo discusses the importance of expanding U.S.-Korea engagement to include next-generation nuclear cooperation, clean energy coordination, technology development, and management of authoritarian nation geopolitical ambitions.
Nuclear Collaborations
Synthos Green Energy (ESG) signed a letter of intent regarding the use of small modular reactors (SMRs) and micro modular reactors (MMRs) with Polish chemical company Ciech. The agreement between the two organizations comes after the Ciech Group vows to abandon its use of coal and achieve climate neutrality by 2040. Synthos Green Energy, a partner of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, will help determine the possibility of Ciech’s use of SMRs and MMRs in their plants producing soda ash.
Westinghouse Electric Company has signed an agreement with Czech power company ČEZ. The deal outlines plans to upgrade the instrumentation and control (I&C) systems at the Temelin nuclear power plant (NPP), originally installed in 2000. The two companies have been partners since 2006, and this agreement marks an important milestone for the modernization of the nation’s NPP infrastructure.
Cameco, a global provider of uranium, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with X-energy, a Department of Energy funded advanced reactor company. The MoU highlights possible areas of cooperation to support the Xe-100 SMRs in both the U.S. and Canada.
International BV, an architectural company, is partnering with GE Hitachi, an American-Japanese collaboration, for the construction of NPPs across North America, Europe, and Asia. International BV is designing the architecture of GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMRs and advising on potential sites of the NPPs.  
Under the patronage of the IAEA, Zimbabwe joins four multilateral treaties regarding nuclear safety and security: the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Also at this IAEA conference, the first ever MoU between Russia and Zimbabwe was signed regarding the peaceful use of atomic energy.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The U.S., Britain and Australia have announced the creation of AUKUS, a trilateral Indo-Pacific Security Partnership. Under the partnership, Australia will manufacture eight nuclear power submarines, utilizing U.S. technology. According to President Biden, the three allies together will “update and enhance our shared ability to take on the threats of the 21st century.” AUKUS has received criticism from China, which warned of an increase in arms in the region, and France, which had a previous diesel-powered submarine deal with Australia.  
Rosatom’s Director General Alexey Likhachov has announced that its Multipurpose Fast Research Reactor project has reached its installation phase. The project is focused on an MBIR multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron research reactor, capable of testing various materials including lead, lead-bismuth, and gas coolants. The reactor is projected to start-up in 2028.
After determining the feasibility for SMR deployment in Puerto Rico, the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) has begun looking at siting requirements. After the 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the country prioritized building a more resilient energy system and has planned the construction of microgrids utilizing an increasing share of solar power. The NAP is currently evaluating how to add the SMRs without interfering with the preplanned microgrids.
The chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), Kazuhiro Ikebe, released a statement regarding Japan’s need for nuclear power, and that FEPC will have a discussion with the next Prime Minister (PM) about energy policy. Following the announcement, the chairman of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, Eiji Hashimoto, asked the new Japanese government to seek an energy policy that maximizes nuclear power.
Two Japanese candidates for PM, Fumio Kishida and Sanae Takaichi, called for the use of SMRs and nuclear fusion reactors to maintain a stable and clean energy supply source. They also prompted Japan to restart its current idle nuclear reactors, which have been shut off since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
China’s HTR-PM high-temperature gas-cooled reactor completed a sustained reaction 23 days after starting fuel loading. This was just one of two reactors that HTR-PM is currently conducting tests to confirm the control rod performance and the possibility of nuclear instrument technology equipment to ensure that the reactors are able to be added to the plant’s electricity grid by the end of the year.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has successfully connected Unit 2 to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) grid. This impressive feat has transported the first megawatts (MW) of carbon-free electricity from the Barakah Plant. The NPP will add an additional 1400MW of clean electricity to UAE’s grid.
The Czech Republic’s lower house of parliament has approved the Low Carbon Act, a framework detailing nuclear investment, as the current market for nuclear energy is lacking. The new law allows state-owned companies to purchase electricity directly from NPPs at a fixed rate. Purchases will last for thirty years at least, with the possibility of renewal. The law’s purpose is to obtain a 1200MWe reactor built at the Dukovany NPP.
South Africa announced plans for the next phase of construction for its 2500MW NPP. South Africa’s Deputy Energy Minister announced the plans to boost energy security to IAEA, detailing the Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued in March 2022 and is expected to complete procurement in 2024.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) issued a solicitation calling for small, commercially available, nuclear-powered engines. The engines will be used for space missions out of Earth’s orbit. Submissions are due September 23, 2021 for those who are interested in supporting current DIU projects.
On September 13th, the Illinois State Senate passed a bill that will provide $700 million in subsidies to Exelon Corp over five years. This bill prevented two of the company’s NPPs from closure. Exelon has responded to the bill’s passage by stating they are preparing to refuel the Byron and Dresden generation stations, which were originally scheduled to close this month.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) gave up its construction permit for Bellefonte NPP. Construction of the twin reactor began 47 years ago, and will be America’s biggest unfinished NPP. Only seven of the seventeen nuclear reactors were finished. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
China has developed a new high-level radioactive waste disposal method that melts waste into glass. The effective technique involves melting down the liquid waste at a temperature of at least 1100 ℃, letting it cool and turn into glass, which stabilizes the radioactive material. This is a major milestone achievement in China’s plans to achieve a safe nuclear industry.
Japanese officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) have admitted to their misstep in investigating exhaust filters at the Fukushima NPP, after having to replace them twice. Exhaust filters are vital to preventing radioactive pollution, as they prevent the particles from a contaminated water system emitting into the air. According to workers, all but one of the 25 filters in the water treatment system had been found damaged in the last month. Working with the IAEA, TEPCO plans to discharge the contaminated water into the ocean after the water has been treated to have radioactive levels below legal limits.
A fire broke out at Hinkley Point C, a NPP under construction in Somerset, England which is set to finish construction in 2026. The fire lasted about 30 minutes in a temporary building away from the main construction site, and there were no reported injuries. An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the fire.
Noteworthy Research
The IAEA has released its annual outlook regarding the potential future of nuclear power. This year’s report is the first in a decade that predicts a growth in nuclear power capacity for generating electricity. IAEA expects world nuclear generating capacity to nearly double from its previous projection of 393GW to 792GW by 2050. This report reflects the global recognition of climate change as a serious issue, and projects nuclear energy as a way to combat it.
NTI’s new paper highlights two of its projects: the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities and the NTI Nuclear Security Index (NTI Index). The paper focuses on the current limitations regarding individual state’s regulations and global policy, specifically countries informally working together to enhance nuclear security as well as formal treaties and international organizations. In the paper’s forward, NTI officials warn of the dangers resulting from the lack of a comprehensive global nuclear security architecture. 
The Nuclear Conversation
The Hill, September 22

Breaking Defense, September 22

Nuclear Innovation Alliance, September 21
Department of Energy, September 21
Mining Weekly, September 21
Nuclear Engineering International, September 20
Forbes, September 20
International Atomic Energy Agency, September 20
Oil Price, September 19
International Atomic Energy Agency, September 17
Breaking Defense, September 15
The Conversation, September 14
Morgan Lewis, September 14
NEI Magazine, September 14
Climate Wire, September 14
Miami Herald, September 13
Architect’s Journal, September 13
The Hill, September 10
World Nuclear News, September 10
Nature, September 9
The Hill, September 8
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