In this issue, we highlight the latest nuclear energy trends in France and the UK. We also note the latest Russian and Chinese developments in their global civil nuclear presence and outreach. Finally, we bring attention to a series of country case studies addressing the key challenges and constraints to decarbonizing their power sectors. 
Davos Dials in on Evolving Global Risks and Responses
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is a convenient punching bag for those who view its participants as part of the problem rather than the solution. But this year’s meeting offered some important information on the re-ordering of global threats, the rising challenge of climate change, and the incremental crawl toward corporate environmental, social and good governance (ESG) objectives. While these may seem widely separated issues, they are in fact, very interrelated.

At the top of the long-term concerns in the new Global Risks Report is “climate action failure” followed by “weapons of mass destruction”. Also prominent in the top 10 list of likely risks, was the failure of global governance. Those three themes – climate, WMD, and governance – are the nucleus of the modern global challenge. They must be tackled jointly and comprehensively.

The challenges posed by climate change was a major theme in Davos and there were a number of high profile and highly critical presentations on what the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, titled the climate war .

But Davos’ emotional climate crisis rhetoric engendered a response that sought to refocus the fight on realistic pathways to achieve greenhouse gas reductions. One Washington Post column made the important point that “energy consumption is not a compartment of modern life; it is modern life...[and that] serious plans for the energy future must take the modern world into account.” It noted that all “high yield” sources of energy must be pursued, including, “new and better nuclear reactors” and carbon capture and storage.

An essay in the Wall Street Journal, urged readers to “Ignore the Fake Climate Debate” that is driven by deniers and alarmists. It made the valuable point that economic growth is an important component of reducing energy consumption because it decreases poverty and drives technologies that can replace carbon intensive energy use. This includes replacing coal with natural gas, and expanding wind and solar power, and nuclear energy.

The role of nuclear energy in addressing climate change is clearly controversial despite the continued confirmation of its zero-carbon importance by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many international experts. As the Post piece notes, should we “assume that Chernobyl and Fukushima are the best that we can do,” because the “nuclear plants of tomorrow” may offer advantages over existing technology.

The nuclear technology of the 2050s will not be the same as that which originated in the 1950s. But the expansion of nuclear energy, and particularly its introduction to new nations and regions, raises global security challenges. If misused or under-policed there is the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation.

This threat of, “two simultaneous dangers - nuclear war and climate change,” are primary reasons why the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock was pushed to 100 seconds from midnight, a decrease of 20 seconds over just the last year. As the Bulletin board notes, the intensifying of dangers is a response to “world leaders that have allowed the international political structure for managing them to erode.”

But government is not the only answer to these global threats. The private sector also has a responsibility to strengthen the systems required to address existential dangers. At the 2017 Annual Meeting in Davos, its International Business Council issued a “Compact for Responsive and Responsible Leadership” that states, “society is best served by corporations that have aligned their goals to the long-term goals of society.” This objective was furthered at the 2020 meeting by a new report that proposes a, “common, core set of metrics and recommended disclosures” that will allow the public to assess whether the corporate sector is living up to its ESG promises.

The private sector’s full effects remain to be seen, but in advance of the Davos meeting, Microsoft announced that it will be carbon negative in its operations by 2030 and launched a $1 billion climate innovation fund that will “accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture and renewal technologies.” This is in addition to the substantial resources Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, is putting into his next generation nuclear reactor. This announcement was complemented by the announcement by BlackRock’s CEO that “[c]limate change has become a defining factor” in its investment business and that “Governments and the private sector must work together to pursue an [energy] transition that is fair and just.”

The yearly Davos meeting is often portrayed as a contrived concert of virtue signaling that evaporates with wheels up at weeks end. But when focusing in on the real signals and less on the noise it becomes clear that there is a growing recognition that the global environment and its challenges are evolving and that the responses to them must be transformed.

There are realistic and effective responses to the climate and nuclear challenges that the world is facing. And it is encouraging that the private sector is willing to work with governments to develop them. But a third and necessary leg of this triangle is civil society. Its organizations and experts can cling to old battle lines that are worn and comfortable but are no longer defensible. Sanctimony won’t solve any of the new global challenges. The private sector, governments, and civil society need to find their fulcrum of consensus and forge a collective response. This is the challenge Davos should take on next year.

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
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has entered into two significant cooperation agreements ; the first with the China Academy of Sciences to build a laboratory for research in nuclear materials and safety evaluation, and the second with China Energy Engineering Corporation for cooperation in improving efficiencies for nuclear power projects. 

Russia and Ghana have entered a Memorandum of Cooperation to help upcoming Ghanaian engineers, physicists, doctors and researchers to receive master and postgraduate education in nuclear subjects in Russia. The nuclear education programs are supported by Rosatom and the tuition fees will be funded by the Russian Ministry of Higher Education and Science. 

Romania has announced it will exit the deal with its partner, China General Nuclear Power Corporation, to expand the Cernavoda nuclear power plant (NPP). Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban invoked the European Union’s Green Deal as the main reason behind ending the deal on the construction of reactors 3 and 4. 

Uzbekistan, the seventh-largest uranium producer globally, will supply Japan with more than 1 billion U.S. dollars worth of uranium between 2023 and 2030. 

Turkey is considering other suppliers for the construction of the country’s second NPP in the province of Sinop. The Turkish Energy Minister stated that they discontinued cooperation with Japan, backing away from a 2013 agreement.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
France announced that it will not decide whether to go ahead with six new EPR reactors until 2022. Energy Minister Elizabeth Borne told a parliamentary hearing that the decision on new reactors won’t be until after the start-up on EDF’s Flamanville 3 EPR reactor. 

EDF’s French nuclear power generation missed its 2019 target by a more than expected 3.5 percent. EDF attributed the drop to a high volume of reactor outages, with nuclear power output tumbling in the final month of 2019 by 15.2 percent. This took France’s nuclear generation to its lowest since 2017. 

France has confirmed the Fessenheim-1 NPP will be permanently shut down in late February, followed by Fessenheim-2 in June. The units, located near Colmar in northeast France, became operational in 1978, making them the oldest reactors still operational in the French nuclear fleet. 

Hinkley Point B power station now holds the record for generating more electricity than any other NPP in the country. Since the plant began operating in 1976, Hinkley Point B has generated 300 TWh of low-carbon electricity, simultaneously avoiding the production of 105 million tonnes of CO2e.

Japanese utility Shikoku Electric Power Co has been ordered by a Hiroshima court to suspend operations of its only operable nuclear reactor, the No. 3 unit at its Ikata plant in western Japan. 

Lithuania has expressed concern regarding the construction and operation of Belarus’ Astravets NPP, which is under construction only 31 miles from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. The Lithuanian Energy Minister stated that the plant “is a threat to our national security, public health, and the environment”, especially given the region is vulnerable to seismic activity.  

Austria remains opposed to nuclear power , adamant to remain nuclear-free in its pursuit of more environmentally friendly power sources. Chancellor Sebastian Kruz stated that although its important Austria supports renewable resources, it won’t include nuclear energy; making it clear that Austria is against using EU funding to support nuclear energy. 

Canada’ Bruce power plant took its Unit 6 reactor offline to begin a $2.1 billion project to replace all its major components. The reactor will be out of service for the next four years, and marks the beginning of a 13 year, $13 billion project to refurbish six of the plant’s eight reactors. 
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and TerraPower have announced plans to establish a partnership to design and build the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The VTR will be used to test and develop advanced reactor fuels and materials, with the DOE hopeful the project could be completed as early as 2026.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory have created a new system of analysis to identify how much power plants save through wet cooling systems and an air cooling system, to make NPPs more energy efficient and reduce water use. 

Digital and technological innovation is being touted as an important way to enhance safety and risk assessment standards and practices for new generation NPPs. Digitalization will help elevate safety standards to allow nuclear to fully contribute to the low carbon futures of China, India and beyond. 

Exelon’s Clinton nuclear plant in Illinois has installed new accident tolerant fuel . Accident tolerant fuels are supported by the DOE and are intended to directly and substantially enhance nuclear fuel reliability and safety.
Noteworthy Research
The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has released two issue briefs titled “ Transforming the Power Sector in Developing Countries: Geopolitics, Poverty and Climate Change in Bangladesh ” and another titled “ Transforming the Power Sector in Developing Countries: Geopolitics, Poverty and Climate Change in Pakistan ”. Authored by Dr. Robert F. Ichord, Jr., the briefs address the key challenges and constraints Bangladesh and Pakistan face in decarbonizing their respective power sectors. 

The Stimson Center released a comprehensive report titled “ Evaluating Member State Acceptance of Blockchain for Nuclear Safeguards”.The report aims to inform member states and the International Atomic Energy Agency about the challenges and opportunities associated with deploying Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for safeguard purposes. It also explored potential user requirements that should be considered if stakeholders decide to move forward with designing a DTL for safeguards verification and analysis. 
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.
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