In this week’s issue, we discuss the need for a multifaceted policy approach as climate and nonproliferation concerns become increasingly intersected with the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies. We also note a new issue brief by the Atlantic Council, 'Innovation in Nuclear Energy Technologies: Implications for US National Defense’, which discusses the strategic and security benefits of nuclear energy. Finally, we draw attention to TerraPower’s decision to invest in High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel production.
Non-Proliferation and Next-Generation Nuclear Power
The nuclear non-proliferation and security agendas seem intellectually immobile at a time when new challenges demand aggressive, non-traditional new thinking.
At the forefront of the new agenda is the increasing demonstration of climate change destructiveness at home and abroad and its intersection with the zero-carbon and steady electricity production attributes of next-generation nuclear power.
These issues need to be incorporated into a new, integrated policy envelope that balances traditional proliferation concerns with new climate realities resulting in enhanced global security.
The non-proliferation and security regimes were designed to manage the proliferation potential of traditional large nuclear plants and related facilities. These reactors are now at a 30-year low and their number is unlikely to rebound significantly.
The future increasingly looks to be smaller reactors and those with exotic fuel cycles. The next-gen advanced reactors are still largely at the beginning of their development process, but the proliferation and security agenda is becoming clear.
One of the most important non-proliferation red lines is uranium enrichment above 20% of the fissile isotope U-235. At the 20% level and above it is considered to be highly-enriched and at 90% enrichment and above it’s considered nuclear weapon grade. 
A number of advanced nuclear reactor designs require a fuel that is from 5-20% enrichment (likely much closer to 20%) called HALEU or high-assay low-enriched uranium. The higher enrichment allows for a smaller reactor design and lengthier fuel use, but it raises eyebrows in the non-proliferation bunker. 
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), the next-gen nuclear industry may need “nearly 600 metric tonnes of HALEU by 2030.” At the moment the U.S. does not produce HALEU, although it has a pilot project to demonstrate its production.
The non-proliferation and nuclear security concerns about HALEU are important and need to be assessed. But in the evolving global environment, these worries will need to be balanced against the necessity of achieving zero-carbon emissions in a few decades to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
One example of the coming proliferation-climate tradeoff is embodied in the Natrium power production and storage system. This is a new partnership between Bill Gates’ TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH). The system is designed to support the deployment of renewable energy by storing energy and then releasing it for electric power production when renewable energy flags and power demand picks up.
The reactor at the center of the concept would run on HALEU. The Natrium system would store energy in molten salt. This storage concept is similar to that employed by concentrated solar power, but in this design the power production from the reactor is continuous, not intermittent as with renewables.
The potential value of this concept recently was illustrated when California was whacked with the overlapping catastrophes of a record-breaking heat wave, massive fires, and extreme smoke cover. That reduced solar energy output and contributed to electricity blackouts in America’s most populous and economically dynamic state.
It is not clear that California would welcome a proposal like Natrium, as it is on track to eliminate all existing nuclear power. But, in concept, it would reduce or eliminate the need for reliance on carbon producing natural gas as a backup to its renewable energy backbone. This hybrid renewable-nuclear solution also may have applicability for other countries, particularly those with developing economies, small electrical grids, and growing populations.
Of course, at the moment, advanced reactor systems are completely conceptual, and problems will arise. But DoE, supported by a rare bipartisan consensus in Congress, is pushing forward with an advanced reactor demonstration during the next decade.
Through that process, other brewing next-gen nuclear security controversies will emerge, including the potential reprocessing of spent fuel, deployment of small reactors in remote locations and dangerous regions, military use of microreactors, and the geopolitical value of nuclear exports. They will require new policy responses that will need to be generated by a multidisciplinary coalition, not a single issue silo.
It is now clear that continuing climate crises and nuclear proliferation concerns inevitably will cross over during the next decade.
The desperate demand for zero-carbon energy will drive the development and maturity of next-gen reactor technology. If proven operational, these reactors will require the intelligent modernization of existing nuclear security and non-proliferation guardrails. That is a process that can result in greater global security if the policy recognizes the demands of the climate-nuclear nexus.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security
The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has released a new issue brief detailing the national security implications of emerging nuclear technologies. 'Innovation in Nuclear Energy Technologies: Implications for US National Defense’ outlines the ways in which next generation nuclear reactors can provide carbon-free, reliable energy to small or remote grids, contribute to U.S. military operations, as well as grant the U.S. significant geopolitical influence through the civil nuclear export regime.
Nuclear Collaborations
Nuclear energy has taken a forward step in Africa, with two regional organizations signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) and the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) hope that the agreement will improve access to electricity across the continent.

Polish and U.S. officials will discuss collaboration on nuclear energy during upcoming talks at a conference in Brussels, as Poland weighs the scope of its planned nuclear power program. The meeting is expected to focus on details of a cooperative agreement between the two nations, which was recently announced.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Japan’s Hitachi has formally withdrawn from the £16 billion Wylfa nuclear power project in Northern Wales, claiming that the impact of COVID-19 has left the already-uncertain construction process untenable. Several reports have indicated that the U.K. government is considering taking ownership of the plant to continue construction, but this is yet to be confirmed.

An official working for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has indicated that the Gulf nation will construct new nuclear power reactors in the near future, just months after its Barakah plant became the first operational nuclear power plant (NPP) in the Arab world. According the the official, four new reactors are being considered, with construction likely to begin once all four units of the Barakah plant are completed.

The Chief Engineer of China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), Zheng Mingguang, says that China is hoping to expand its nuclear energy generation for both electrical and non-electrical purposes in the near future. The comment comes amidst a recorded increase in power use in sectors outside of those traditionally powered by nuclear, such as the deployment of 5G telecommunications technology. 
Climate Action 100+, a group representing investors that manage more than $47 trillion in assets, is pressuring the world’s biggest carbon polluters to support decarbonization strategies. 

Canada’s Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for increased support in the development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs). In the letter, Moe positioned advanced nuclear technologies as pivotal in Canada’s decarbonization strategy while also providing abundant, reliable electricity.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
TerraPower, in collaboration with Centrus Energy Corp., has announced its plans to invest in High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium fuel production to bolster the U.S.’s domestic nuclear fuel supply. The announcement comes just days after the details of an agreement between the U.S. and Rosatom emerged, in which uranium imports from Russia will be drastically reduced to provide a boost for the domestic market.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has released a draft agreement with Rosatom that reduces America’s reliance on Russian uranium in an effort to boost the domestic uranium mining industry. The draft sets the timeline for reductions in uranium imports at 20 years, and will likely be finalized in early October.

Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) has introduced a bill to Congress that would require the DOE to establish advanced nuclear reactor research and objectives. The Nuclear Energy Reactor Demonstration (NERD) Act is aimed at strengthening U.S. nuclear competitiveness abroad, and would mandate the DOE to complete at least two advanced reactor demonstration projects. 

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it will reopen its Arctic Energy office to focus on resource extraction and nuclear power, to both supply electricity and advance national security interests. The move comes amidst an increasingly tense scramble for control of the Arctic’s natural resources and geopolitical assets, with advanced NPPs being an element of most actors’ strategies. 
Illinois labor unions have formed a not-for-profit organization named Climate Jobs Illinois, in a bid to push lawmakers into adopting new green energy solutions, including nuclear energy. The non-profit will unveil new policy initiatives in both the energy and infrastructure sectors to promote sustainable, well-paying employment.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Saudi Arabia likely has enough uranium ore reserves to produce nuclear fuel, according to reporting by The Guardian, which has raised concerns about the security ramifications of a nuclear-equipped Arabian kingdom. Information about the uranium reserves was reportedly collected by Chinese government officials, who are working closely with Saudi Arabia as it inches closer towards developing its own civil nuclear program. The IAEA has since begun talks with Saudi Arabia on stricted nuclear checks, aiming to eliminate a “weakness” in the global inspections regime. 
Noteworthy Research
‘Twenty-First-Century US Nuclear Power: A National Security Imperative’ is a new piece published in the latest edition of Strategic Studies Quarterly, analyzing the strategic security and nonproliferation benefits of advancing America’s leadership in the civil nuclear industry. 

In a sign of nuclear energy’s increasing significance to global energy systems, the IAEA’s ‘Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments’ highlights the latest developments in SMR technologies and recognizes their potential to provide low-carbon electricity to both nuclear newcomer and to expanding nations. 

‘Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2020’ is the latest report of the IAEA’s Climate Change and Nuclear Power series, drawing upon qualitative and statistical data to illustrate the need for expanding nuclear power.
The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future) Initiative has released a new report detailing the flexible role of nuclear energy in a clean energy system. ‘Flexible Nuclear Energy for Clean Energy Systems’ identifies the ways in which civil nuclear power can achieve its potential by working in tandem with renewables to create flexible, sustainable and cheap hybrid energy systems.
The Nuclear Conversation
The Wall Street Journal, September 20

Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 17

Foreign Policy, September 17

Oil Price, September 16
The National Review, September 16

Politico, September 16

The Williams Record, September 16

South China Morning Post, September 14

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 14

Power Technology, September 14

Axios, September 14

The Wall Street Journal, September 11
The National Interest, September 11
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