In this week’s newsletter, we examine the patterns of global deployment of small modular and advanced reactors. We spotlight a recent CNBC article on China’s ongoing nuclear energy expansion and the United States’ efforts to launch a nuclear comeback in response. Finally, we highlight recent developments in nuclear policy and governance, international collaborations, and geopolitics.
Global SMR/AR Development Overview
The two infographics above visualize the countries around the world that are currently developing small modular reactors (SMR) and the distribution of advanced reactors in development by reactor type. The first graph uses data from the IAEA’s SMR Technology Development report from 2022, while the second graph depicts data from the IAEA’s Advanced Reactors Information System (ARIS) database. Currently, the top five countries developing SMRs are the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and Canada. Additionally, aside from new generation pressurized water reactors, countries have made the most progress in developing sodium-cooled and lead-cooled fast reactors.
Patrick Kendall, Program Director, Partnership for Global Security
Michael Sway, Della Ratta Fellow, Partnership for Global Security

Cat Clifford of CNBC wrote a detailed article documenting China’s ongoing nuclear energy expansion, concerns surrounding China’s nuclear reactor exports, and the United States’ attempts to launch a nuclear comeback. China currently has 21 nuclear reactors under construction, which is more than two and a half times more nuclear reactors under construction than any other country. In the field of nuclear deployment and diplomacy, China is racing ahead of the United States. In response, the United States is attempting to launch a nuclear comeback powered by new small modular reactor designs, but its success is still to be determined. PGS President, Ken Luongo, offers his observations of the situation in the article.
The Impact of the Ukraine Invasion on Nuclear Affairs and Exports
Ukraine has repaired over 50% of its nuclear power units that have been damaged during the war. Due to Russian missile strikes, nine nuclear power units have been damaged and 5 have been repaired. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that multi-level protection is being formed for energy facilities in response to future Russian large-scale attacks on the power system.

On the anniversary of his visit to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant a year ago, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a message the arrival of IAEA experts to the plant was crucial and a game changer. He stressed that the continued and permanent presence of IAEA experts at the site continues to be of paramount importance. Their presence at Zaporizhzhia was essential in helping to stabilize the situation and keep the world informed.

Water is being pumped from a new groundwater well and is being used as a source for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after the destruction of the downstream Kakhovka dam in early June. There are plans to construct an additional 10-12 wells around the plant’s sprinkler ponds as part of the efforts to ensure sufficient cooling is available for the plant’s six reactors.
Nuclear Collaborations
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced the participants for Project Phoenix at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Project proposals from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia were competitively selected to participate in Project Phoenix and will receive support for coal-to-SMR feasibility studies. Project Phoenix supports energy security and climate goals by creating coal-to-SMR power plant conversions while retaining local jobs through workforce retraining.

The World Nuclear Association and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) have launched the Net Zero Nuclear Initiative seeking collaboration between government, industry leaders, and civil society ahead of COP28. The aim of this campaign is to ensure that nuclear energy’s potential is fully realized in facilitating the decarbonization of global energy systems. The IAEA’s Atoms4Zero and the United Kingdom government are also supporting the initiative.

South Korea’s Hyundai E&C and Holtec have partnered together to construct a small modular reactor (SMR) in the United States with a construction end date in 2026 and electricity generation goal of 2029. According to Holtec Chairman Dr. Kris Singh, the first SMR will be built on the Palisades nuclear site in Michigan, which was permanently shut down in 2022. Holtec’s chairman said that they plan to construct 2 to 4 SMRs on the site. The order is expected to exceed 4 trillion Won ($3.005 billion).

Uganda signed an agreement with Russia and South Korea to construct 2 large scale nuclear power stations. One plant will have a capacity of 7,000 MWe and the other 8,600 MW for a total generation capacity of 15,600 MW. The exact timeline and funding for the projects is not yet known, but Uganda has set a 2031 goal to produce electricity from nuclear power.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the cooperation and exchange of information in nuclear regulatory matters. Both nations have agreed to cooperate in numerous areas with the priority on pre-licensing safety assessments of new nuclear facility designs, including SMRs, and the regulatory activities surrounding decommissioning uranium mining and processing facilities. Additionally, Canadian and Ukrainian regulators will cooperate on restoring safe operation of the occupied Zaporizhzhia and other facilities impacted by the war.

German radioactive waste specialist GNS and Swedish nuclear technical services provider Studsvik have formed a strategic and exclusive cooperation agreement to implement Studsvik’s inDRUM technology in the German market. The inDRUM technology is a solution for transuranic waste that does not meet waste disposal criteria and is targeted at legacy wastes that are in aging drums. inDRUM consists of two main treatment systems that can reduce waste volume by up to 90% and do not require the handling or removal of transuranic waste from its original container.

Canadian engineering firm Hatch and Belgian engineering firm Tractebel agreed to cooperate on supporting the deployment of small and large scale nuclear technologies in North America and Europe. Tractebel brings over 60 years of nuclear engineering experience throughout the entire life cycle of nuclear installations and Hatch offers engineering, consulting, and technology and equipment design and covers the complete life cycle of nuclear installations. Together, the two companies aim to provide “invaluable expertise” in the consultancy for nuclear projects and nuclear engineering and ensure continuity in the expert teams that will work on nuclear new build projects in Europe and North America.

Slovakia’s JAVYS and France’s EDF signed a framework cooperation agreement (FCA) covering new nuclear power in Slovakia, including both small modular reactors (SMRs) and large-scale nuclear power plants. JAVYS says that the FCA will provide more areas for cooperation with another important partner, and the CEO said that it would result in a more intense exchange of information in the field of new technologies.

Advanced nuclear reactor developer Oklo expanded its partnership with Centrus Energy by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering the development of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouses and the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel supply. This MoU builds upon a letter of intent signed by the two companies in 2021 regarding cooperation in the development of a HALEU fuel facility. Oklo’s Aurora design is a fast neutron reactor that uses metallic HALEU to produce electricity and produce usable heat.

British Energy Minister Grant Shapps announced that the United Kingdom will guarantee a £192 million ($245 million) export finance deal to allow Ukraine to buy nuclear fuel from producers. According to Shapps, the move is to help ensure that Ukraine’s nuclear fuel doesn’t have to come from Russia in the future.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Saudi Arabia announced that it is considering a Chinese bid to build two 1,000 MWe Hualong One reactors. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) bid to build a nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, and a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry added that China will continue to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in nuclear energy. Saudi Arabia has indicated that it would like U.S. participation in its civil nuclear program, but there are disagreements over uranium enrichment and safeguards.

The Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority has granted permission for the construction of the fourth and final unit of the El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant. The authority issued a statement that it approved the unit’s construction after a comprehensive inspection that verified the unit’s safety. Russian nuclear agency Rosatom is building the El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant under a bilateral agreement between Egypt and Russia from 2017.

The initial groundwork for the sixth unit of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant is now taking place, marking a fresh milestone for the project. Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjarto added that the target for the project to be completed by 2030 remains realistic. The Paks II project was originally launched in 2014 by an intergovernmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two VVER-1200 reactors to be supplied by Rosatom.

U.K. Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex stated that China’s investments in the United Kingdom’s nuclear energy sector are not a national security risk as long as Beijing-linked firms are not involved in running power plants. He adds that while China General Nuclear (CGN) is still a minority shareholder in the Hinkley Point C project, there's no Chinese technology being used. Nonetheless, CGN workers are currently helping to oversee the installation of both Hinkley Point C reactors.

India’s first indigenously developed nuclear power reactor began operations at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project in Gujarat. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is tasked with the design, construction, commissioning, and operation of nuclear power reactors in India, and it is currently building two 700 MW pressurized heavy water reactors at the Kakrapar site. India’s government has authorized the construction of 10 indigenously developed PHWRs in fleet mode at four locations throughout the country.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala stated that the Czech Republic would need as many as four new nuclear power units to meet the country’s growing energy supply. Fiala added that there are more opportunities for the country to expand its nuclear power capacity following the recent tender for a new unit at the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. The Czech Republic currently has six operational nuclear reactors that provide 34% of the country’s electricity.

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for a referendum on the construction of a nuclear power in Kazakhstan. While Kazakhstan is the world’s leading producer of uranium, it has yet to adopt nuclear energy. Additionally, many in Kazakhstan are skeptical of introducing nuclear into the country’s energy mix given the history of nuclear tests carried out in the country during the era of the Soviet Union.

The United Kingdom’s government made available a further £341 million ($434 million) of funding for development work on the Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant project. The extra money will help prepare the site for construction, procuring key components from the project’s supply chain, and expanding its workforce. The plan is for Sizewell C to feature two EPRs producing 3.2 GW of electricity, which would be enough to power around six million homes.

China General Nuclear (CGN) announced that first concrete for Lufeng Nuclear Power Plant Unit 6 has begun. Unit 6 is the second Hualong One reactor at the site, where four CAP1000 reactors are also planned. Units 5 and 6 at the Lufeng power plant are expected to be connected to the grid in 2028 and 2029, respectively.

Iran unveiled the Generic Nuclear Reactor Training Simulator (GNRTS). The simulator represents a two-loop pressurized water reactor with a net electrical output of 30 MWe, and the simulator can recreate various scenarios to train technical personnel and nuclear engineering students in the basic concepts of operational characteristics of a PWR plant in normal operating conditions as well as in abnormal and emergency conditions.

Saskatchewan’s Crown Investments Corporation (CIC) is providing C$479,000 ($352,000) to the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers Association (SIMSA) and its partners to prepare companies for future participation in small modular reactor (SMR) development. The two-year funding agreement will support an SMR supply chain specialist position with SIMSA. The Canadian government approved C$74 million of federal funding for SMR development in Saskatchewan the week prior.

South Korea’s government will place nuclear component orders worth $604.7 million for local part suppliers in response to a years-long demand slump. The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy plans to place orders for 104 types of nuclear reactor components in a bid to put the local nuclear sector back on track for further market expansion. The current Korean government has focused on boosting the Korean nuclear sector with an aim to export 10 nuclear power plants by 2030.

Argentina’s Atucha II nuclear unit is delivering power again after the successful completion of repairs. The unit was originally shut down after the discovery that one of the four internal supports of the reactor had detached. Argentina’s nuclear sector has three pressurized water reactors with a total generating capacity of 1,641 MWe.

Germany and Italy highlight the growing European divide over nuclear energy. While Italy has vowed to speed up the integration of nuclear energy in a bid to bolster the economy and decarbonize its energy sector, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently doubled down on his view that nuclear power has no place in the country’s energy mix. Italy has not operated any nuclear energy reactors since 1987, and Germany closed down its last reactors in April of this year.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang to explain Japan’s stance on the release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. Japan started releasing treated wastewater from the wrecked plant into the ocean last month, drawing criticism from China who imposed a blanket ban on all aquatic imports from Japan. Additionally, China reportedly turned down Japan’s proposal that it take part in the IAEA’s system in which countries can analyze the results of sea water monitoring off Fukushima.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that U.S. regulators are ready to review and license the next generation of nuclear reactors while staying committed to safety. The NRC is currently under pressure to show it can move quickly on deploying advanced nuclear reactors such as small modular reactors (SMR) and other previously untested designs. There are currently dozens of new reactor designs in the development stage, though only a handful have made it to the NRC thus far.

The U.S. Department of the Air Force has selected Oklo Inc. to site, design, construct, own, and operate a microreactor facility to deliver electricity and steam at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The company would need to obtain a license for the plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before constructing and operating the plant. Oklo’s fast reactor technology is able to operate independently from the grid while providing reliable power to the Eielson Air Base.

Centrus Energy Corp. announced that it expects to begin first-of-a-kind production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) in October 2023 at the American Centrifuge Plant in Ohio. This will be the first new U.S.-owned uranium enrichment plant to begin production since 1954 as the United States is looking to domestic companies that can supply HALEU for future advanced reactors. Under a cost-share contract signed with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2022, Centrus is required to begin production of HALEU by the end of this year.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) is working to recycle used fuel from the closed EBR-II reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to make high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). DoE planes to recover approximately 10 tons of HALEU from EBR-II fuel by December 2028 using an electrochemical process. The U.S. government is supporting several efforts to provide more access to HALEU, which is currently not available from domestic suppliers.

BWX Technologies (BWXT) announced a contract with the U.S. government to process thousands of kilograms of government-owned scrap metal to produce high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) feedstock for fuel for advanced nuclear reactors. The company will produce more than two tons of HALEU over the next five years. The initial award is worth $47 million, with a total contract value of up to $116.5 million.

The Public Interest Advocacy Staff of Georgia Public Service Commission and Georgia Power reached an agreement that would result in several billions of dollars being passed along to company shareholders for the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project. The agreement would resolve a dispute over the estimated $10.2 billion in capital expenses Georgia Power expects to spend by the time the two nuclear reactors are supposed to be fully operational. The settlement calls for capping the maximum paid by Georgia Power customers at $7.6 billion.

The Department of Energy is supporting two projects to explore the feasibility of using nuclear energy in systems to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. GE Vernova will conduct an assessment which will examine the feasibility of integrating GE Hitachi’s small modular reactor into a novel direct air capture (DAC) system. A separate project will see Northwestern University test the feasibility of deploying at-scale novel DAC solutions by developing a DAC hub powered by nuclear energy.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker defended his recent veto of a bipartisan bill that would have lifted Illinois’ decades-old moratorium on nuclear plant construction. Despite his veto, Pritzker’s office stated that the amended bill contained an overly broad definition of advanced reactors, but said that Pritzker would likely sign the bill after more thorough vetting. Additionally, Pritzker extolled the promise of small modular reactors.

A U.S. appeals court canceled the license issued for the construction of a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Texas. The US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not have the authority to license a private storage facility away from nuclear reactors. The proposed license would authorize the facility to store up 5,000 tons of used commercial nuclear fuel as well as “Greater-Than-Class-C” waste for a period of 40 years.

Westinghouse announced the creation of a center of excellence for Low Enriched Uranium Plus (LEU+) fuel manufacturing at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) in South Carolina. Westinghouse has initiated the work to expand its operations at CFFFm with advanced processes, upgraded equipment, and engineered safeguards for sustainable and efficient fabrication of LEU+ nuclear fuel.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to allow Xcel Energy to store additional spent nuclear fuel at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant. Additionally, Xcel has asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a two-decade extension to allow for operations to continue through at least 2040. The Monticello plant temporarily ceased operations in March to fix a second radioactive water leak.
Noteworthy Research
The World Nuclear Association released The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2023-2040 at the World Nuclear Symposium 2023 in London. The flagship fuel cycle report shows an increase in global nuclear generating capacity over the next two decades over three different scenarios, with the average projected growth from 391 GWe currently to 686 GWe by 2040. All three scenarios envisage capacity from small modular reactors (SMR) accounting for part of the 2040 nuclear generation.

Jane Nakano of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a commentary analyzing the geopolitical quandaries stemming from the nuclear cooperation efforts between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The United States has sought to counteract China’s bid to build Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plant, but Saudi Arabia’s interest in obtaining the capacity to enrich domestic uranium has stalled U.S.-Saudi negotiations. Nakano subsequently details whether Saudi Arabia would choose China over the United States, how this fits with China’s efforts to expand its nuclear exports, and how a Saudi-Chinese nuclear partnership might damage U.S. interests in the Middle East.

The U.S. Department of Energy published a study on the feasibility of pairing nuclear reactors with carbon dioxide removal technologies. According to the report, advanced reactors could lower the levelized cost of certain direct air capture technologies by up to 13% over non-nuclear powered systems. The results confirm nuclear energy’s potential in reducing carbon dioxide removal costs, as well as boost their performance and market feasibility.

The Atlantic Council published a report discussing a number of actions that the United States, Japan, and other civil nuclear allies could pursue so that nuclear energy can play a larger role in overcoming the challenges related to energy demand, security, and associated public health risks. Among the number actions recommended include that national governments should support advanced reactor demonstration efforts in 2020s, governments should explain to the public the benefits to society of advanced nuclear technology, and regulatory bodies should look for opportunities to collaborate with other countries’ regulatory entities that are similarly considering SMR deployment.  
The Nuclear Conversation
News items and summaries compiled by:

Patrick Kendall, Program Manager, Partnership for Global Security

Michael Sway, 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.