In this issue, we highlight increased civil nuclear cooperation in Central and Eastern European countries. We also note the latest Rosatom developments in its civil nuclear presence in the Middle East and Africa. Finally, we bring attention to reports analyzing small modular and advanced reactor technologies.
The Real Madrid Playing Field
As this year’s U.N. climate change conference in Madrid comes to a close, the mismatch between global aspiration and actuality is glaring and growing. The annual two-week conversation began with a bleak report on the growing emissions gap and closes with an alarming assessment that the previously inert arctic now is spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the permafrost warms.

Despite the red-hot rhetoric about the need to go faster and further in cutting greenhouse gasses, they actually have grown over the last decade. According to the U.N. report, these emissions must decrease by 7.6% every year over the next decade. This reversal will require incredible – and heretofore lacking - political and social fortitude. Instead, a new analysis indicates that governments are planning to produce 50-120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement targets of limiting global warming to 15.-2.0 degrees Celsius.

While many of the Madrid diplomats, experts, and activists keep advocating for more urgent action, the reality is that most nations haven’t even made adequate pledges to meet the Paris agreement objective. According to one analysis , the major emitting nations, China, the U.S. and India, have made “insufficient” emissions reduction pledges.

As every sports fan knows, the ability to win the big contest is only as good as the players put on the field and the coaches that design the strategy and plans. On the climate playing field, it is clear that neither the preferred technologies nor the strategy are strong enough to win.

The International Energy Agency’s director, Fatih Birol, has made clear that in his view , the global community does not have the luxury of choosing a favorite technology when the focus is on a “climate emergency”.

The two grizzled global veterans of zero carbon emissions are hydro and nuclear power. They are aging and scarred. They work well but are largely unloved. But, in a real crisis effectiveness matters more than political popularity.

The newest technologies, wind and solar power, get all the zero-carbon attention. But, at present, these rookie power sources need strong back-ups because they can’t yet compete at the highest levels. Advances in battery storage and hybrid renewable-clean continuous power sources are two paths that can strengthen their contribution. But, it’s not clear how long it will take for this support system to mature.

The new Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, speaking in Madrid, said , “We should not see nuclear power and renewables as being in competition with one another…We need to make use of all available sources of clean energy.” He noted that nuclear power can provide the back-up power that renewables require and “unlock” their full potential.

One approach to this new energy mix is next generation small modular and advanced reactors. Their promise is significant, but their development is still embryonic. By using non-traditional fuel cycles and coolants, these reactors can be deployed in interior and arid landscapes close to wind farms and solar fields to provide the backup power to those sources.

But there are a number of challenges to be addressed by the developers of the new technologies, national governments, and the IAEA. Foremost among these is ensuring that the next generation of nuclear does not pose a nuclear weapons proliferation danger or elevate security and safety concerns.

The role of next generation nuclear power is a challenge Grossi should tackle with gusto if he is truly concerned about the climate crisis and the sustainable role of nuclear energy in addressing it. It will help distinguish him as a “break the mold” maverick among bland, risk-averse international administrators. Getting all zero-carbon technologies off the bench, out of the penalty box, and onto the playing field is the ultimate prize in this global contest.

Ken Luongo, Partnership for Global Security

“Nuclear innovation is essential in the 21st century, a period of powerful technological evolution and intensifying global competition. The challenges posed by climate change and to global nuclear security must be addressed in a strong and effective manner. Advanced reactors are an important response to both of these critical issues.”
Nuclear Collaboration
Rosatom plans to train nearly 2,000 Egyptians in the operation and maintenance of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Al-Dabaa. Russia is also offering scholarships to Egyptian students pursuing master’s degrees in nuclear-related issues at Russian universities. 

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional intergovernmental organization made up of post-Soviet states, has started working on developing a nuclear energy cooperation program that will take place until 2030. Belarus has taken the lead in this effort, inviting participants to its NPP construction sites.

Bulgaria and the U.S. are set to boost their nuclear cooperation , with plans to send a U.S. technical team to Bulgaria and to export U.S. nuclear fuel to Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov recently met U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, discussing cooperation in different areas of energy.

Canada’s SNC-Lavalin has been awarded a contract by China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) for two Canadian Advanced Heavy Water Reactors to be constructed in China circa 2021. SNC-Lavalin will prepare a licensing-basis document and safety design guides to ensure that the project conforms to regulatory and safety requirements.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Rosatom seeks to increase its presence on the international nuclear energy scene by enhancing cooperation with European states. While such countries as Hungary have already signed cooperation deals with Russia, some EU officials remain highly skeptical and wary of such agreements, fearing Russian influence.

Currently, South Africa is the only African nation operating NPPs. However, Russia’s Rosatom is seeking to expand the role of nuclear energy in the continent’s energy mix, particularly as Africa needs reliable and accessible sources of energy.  

The nuclear waste at South Africa’s Koeberg NPP is set to reach maximum storage capacity by April 2020. State power utility Eskom has provided nine new storage casks, with an additional five expected to arrive soon. This is expected to provide sufficient storage until 2024.

The Nigerian Senate has called for the introduction of nuclear power into the country’s energy mix to attend to the country’s energy needs. It is calling for the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission to play greater roles in this initiative. 

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has announced completion of cold functional tests at two of its Hualong One reactors at Pakistan’s Karachi NPP. These tests involved checking over 7,000 welds and 800 mechanical connection points. The reactors are expected to be operational by 2021.

In India, coal and nuclear power plants are being shut down due to low energy demand. With it critical for the country’s industrial and commercial sectors, India is planning to shift towards renewable energy sources, which could lead to it making up to 55 percent of the country’s energy mix.  

Next year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will assess the prospect of constructing NPPs in Uzbekistan. The IAEA will review the country’s nuclear energy infrastructure and provide technical assistance to prepare the country for construction of its first NPP in 2020-2021.

The IAEA has commended Pakistan’s nuclear security measures following a visit to Pakistan aimed at strengthening the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the IAEA in the field of nuclear security. 

Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, said that the country’s nuclear program is a priority. The country is proceeding forward with its nuclear power expansion, with its Angra III NPP likely to be operational some time next year.

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that nuclear energy was critical for combating climate change, but notes that a medium- and long-term strategy was needed to address nuclear waste. While nuclear energy provides 26 percent of the EU’s total electricity production, it makes up 50 percent of the Union’s low-carbon electricity output. 

Nuclear power will likely be excluded from the list of sustainable technologies that meet the EU’s green finance taxonomy , following the strengthening of its “do no harm” principle that regulates the classification scheme of approved sources of low-carbon energy. 

As Germany phases out nuclear power a question has been raised of how to deal with its nuclear waste . Some 28,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste has to be safely stored in geologically and geographically secure locations. The German government aims to find a permanent nuclear waste storage site by 2031.

South Korea’s state-run nuclear plant operator has stated the country will seek to export more of its endogenously designed nuclear reactors, following celebrations for the completion of two Korean-designed APR-1400 pressurized water reactors. 

Despite pressures for Japan to abandon nuclear power, the Japanese government appears reluctant to pursue this policy. The country plans to restart operations of its No. 2 reactor at the Onagawa NPP. By 2030, nuclear energy’s share of Japan’s energy mix is expected to be 20 to 22 percent. 

The United Arab Emirates’ Barakah NPP could receive its operating license by the first quarter of 2020, leading to the start-up of its first reactor. Despite problems with training local staff, should the Barakah NPP receive its license on time, it is set to be the Arab world’s first NPP.

Canada’s provincial leaders of Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick have agreed to work together on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) to reduce carbon emissions and decrease dependence on fossil fuels. Designs for SMRs have been submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for review.

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response formally decided to launch a new expert group to improve radiological and nuclear emergencies preparedness among Arctic nations.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies 
The recent North Korean cyber attack on India’s Kudankulam NPP has increased concerns about the cyber security of India’s nuclear infrastructure. Experts assert that the North Korean hackers were trying to gain access to information on India’s thorium-based nuclear reactor design.
Noteworthy Research
Nuclear Energy Insider has recently released a report titled “The future of small modular reactors and advanced reactors: off-grid market applications”. This report analyzes the role of nuclear energy, particularly through SMRs, in providing a cheap, reliable source of energy for remote areas.  

The American Nuclear Society has published a report titled “Setting the Right Bar: How Consensus Standards Help Advanced Reactor Development”. The report highlights the importance of establishing and maintaining codes and standards when designing, licensing, and operating reactors and argues that the U.S. should sustain its leadership in determining and supporting the nuclear governance regime. 

The Barents Observer recently published a report detailing the expansive nuclearification of Russian Arctic territories in recent years. There are currently 39 nuclear powered vessels or installations in the Russian Arctic. The Barents Observer estimates that by 2035, the region will be the most nuclearized waters in the world.
The Nuclear Conversation
For more than two decades, 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.
1400 I (Eye) St. NW, Suite 440
Washington, DC 20005