In this week’s issue, we highlight the recent Biden administration's executive order on the climate crisis and its groundbreaking implications for the climate change, nuclear energy and global security agenda established by the Global Nexus Initiative. We also note the first call between the U.S. and Russian presidents since President Biden’s inauguration in which the two leaders agreed to extend the New START nuclear treaty. Finally, we draw attention to a new Russian nuclear consortium focused on the research and development of next-generation nuclear technologies.
Biden Climate Order Embraces Global Nexus Initiative Agenda
The Biden administration’s executive order on the climate crisis has shattered business-as-usual issue silos by “clearly establish[ing] climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security.”

The administration’s action is a welcome embrace of the cutting-edge agenda that was established by the Global Nexus Initiative (GNI) in 2015. GNI anticipated the need to blend climate change, nuclear energy, and global security as a response to overlapping international challenges.

The GNI partnership was born out of an understanding that the nuclear industry, nuclear policy, and climate change communities needed to work together to ensure that all carbon-free energy is accessible and secure.

GNI began as an experiment between non-traditional partners, but it has matured into the leading edge of policy development on the nexus agenda. It has covered issues ranging from the role and responsibility of nuclear power in a carbon constrained world, to the safeguards, security, and geopolitics of advanced reactors, to the evolving politics of nuclear power

It achieved this trailblazing status with the support of a diverse, interdisciplinary, and international expert working group. Its members didn’t always agree but their array of expertise and experience was always welcomed.

The path that GNI has pioneered remains essential and the new Biden climate order has accelerated the need for additional action. As the nexus agenda moves forward, there are several critical areas that require attention.

An important objective is to identify where zero-carbon nuclear technology can be deployed and what governance advances are required to ensure that it remains safe and secure.

Based on a detailed set of criteria developed by PGS, 40 developing economy nations are potential targets for the deployment of smaller and advanced fuel cycle power reactors. The challenge is that many of these nations are nuclear newcomers and the advanced technologies will require adaptation of the existing approach to introducing nuclear energy to new nations. The evolution of this process has not yet been defined.

Particularly for reactors that use a variety of exotic fuel cycles, even experienced nuclear nations have not yet fully identified or addressed the numerous safeguards and security issues that will need to be addressed. There are many reactor designs and no consensus on which will reach commercialization. So, there is still considerable technical and policy work to be done in this space.

As the next-generation international nuclear market and its opportunities and challenges come into clearer focus, the issue of nuclear geopolitics will become more acute. Almost a year ago, the Department of Energy issued a jarring declaration that, “America is losing its competitive global position as the world leader in nuclear energy to state-owned enterprises, including Russia and China.”

Influence in the international nuclear market is a multidimensional issue that has significant political, economic, and global security impacts. Historically, the nations that have dominated the international nuclear market have had outsized influence on the global governance regimes that control nuclear nonproliferation and security. In the past, the U.S. and its allies were in control. Today, it is Russia. In the future it could be China and Russia.

The state-owned nuclear enterprises of Russia and China are deeply funded extensions of the geopolitical objectives of their governments. They have established a head start on the U.S. and its allies in numerous developing economy nations where smaller reactors may be deployed.

Democratic nations have determined that a nuclear future dominated by authoritarian governments is a global security danger. But they have not identified an adequate response to the problem, although incremental progress has been made, including elevating nuclear power in the clean energy diplomacy process.

Under the NICE Future program, nuclear power is now part of the discussion at the yearly Clean Energy Ministerial meetings. However, nuclear energy has not been a central element of the discussions under the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The next COP host-nation, the United Kingdom, considers nuclear power a key element of its zero-carbon energy mix, and it may push it further up the priority list at the upcoming Glasgow meeting.

Still, these steps alone won’t revitalize democratic nation nuclear exports. Relying primarily on the private sector, and restraining collaboration among allies on technology, finance, and diplomatic outreach, is a hobble on the collective competitiveness of all of these nations. None is likely to maintain a commercial edge by going it alone against authoritarian state-owned nuclear competitors. Overcoming this imbalance requires a creative and equitable response among key allied nations that has yet to be identified.

The Biden climate change executive order infuses the climate imperative into the international security agenda. Given the volume and importance of these critical global concerns, and the insularity in many of their issue communities, the requirement to engage in cross-disciplinary integration will be a challenging disruption of the status quo. The Global Nexus Initiative anticipated the inevitability of this evolution at the end of the Obama administration, and it welcomes this new reality. Sealed issue silos are no longer an adequate response to today’s global challenges. 

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

U.S. President Biden and Russian President Putin have agreed to extend the New START nuclear treaty for five years. As the last remaining nuclear arms agreement between the two nations, the New START agreement limits the size of each countries’ strategic nuclear arsenals.
Nuclear Collaborations
The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded Romanian Nuclearelectrica a grant of $1.28 million for a preliminary assessment to identify potential sites for small modular reactors (SMRs) within the nation. In addition, the European Commission has approved the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the two nations for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 of Cernavoda, further strengthening the U.S.-Romanian nuclear relationship.

NuScale Power and the British company Shearwater Energy have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a hybrid, combined generation project that would use wind energy and NuScale’s SMR technology. The project could be sited at the decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power plant (NPP) in the UK, generating power as early as 2027. 

The UK and Japan have penned a research and technology deployment agreement to collaborate on delivering new robotics capabilities to safely automating nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. 

Morocco and Hungary have signed an agreement to enhance scientific and technical cooperation between the two nation’s research centers. The cooperation will focus on the use and application of research reactors, and will explore new topics of interest in food, agriculture, and medicine. 

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and European nuclear trade association Foratom have signed an MOU on supporting the advancement of nuclear energy deployment to meet climate change objectives. The agreement will focus on advancing the development and deployment of SMRs and advanced reactors.

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) and Poland's Ministry of Climate and Environment have launched a new initiative to discuss innovative nuclear financing strategies. Bringing together experts from the public, private and academic sectors, the initiative will review the challenges facing nuclear project financing and will explore financing frameworks to best support new nuclear builds. 

The World Institute for Nuclear Security and Thailand’s Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) have signed an MOU enacting a project--funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Programme--to support the establishment and sustainable operation of a Nuclear Security Support Centre in the nation. 
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
Moscow Power Engineering Institute has announced the creation of a nuclear consortium to collaborate on the development of next-generation nuclear technologies. Composed of nine Russian scientific institutes, centres and universities, the consortium will focus on research and development in closed nuclear fuel cycle technologies, fast reactors, new materials for advanced reactors and emerging digital technologies.

The UAE's Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has announced that all reactors at the Barakah NPP are expected to be operational in four years, with the first of its reactors having reached 100 percent power capacity in December of 2020.  

France’s EDF has cited increasing costs and delays at the Hinkley Point C NPP under construction in England due to the pandemic. EDF has pushed back the station’s estimated start date from the end of 2025 to June 2026 and estimates an additional £500 million in costs. 

The Czech political parties have agreed to exclude Chinese companies from bidding to build a reactor at the Dukovany NPP. The U.S., South Korea, France and Russia still remain in the running for the tender, but the Czech government is set to discuss possibly baring Russian participation. 

Bulgaria has canceled construction of its second NPP near Belene, in favor of building a new reactor at its Kozloduy plant in northern Bulgaria. Citing the region’s heavy dependence on coal, the nation plans to repurpose Russian equipment already purchased for the Belene plant and combine it with U.S. technology as a hybrid solution.

Armenia has made plans to extend the operating life of Unit 2 at the Metsamor NPP beyond 2026. Producing 39 percent of the nation’s total electricity generation, the plant would help the nation to meet its recently approved ‘energy strategy to 2040.’

Unit 1 of Belarus’ Astravets NPP was taken offline after the generation protection system was activated. The Belarus energy ministry stated that radiation background levels were normal and the system was activated during a systems and equipment testing procedure.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hosted an exploratory public meeting to discuss the possibility of extending license renewal for NPPs out to 100 years and the technical issues that could arise from these extensions. Initially, a plant is licensed by the NRC to operate for 40 years. After that period, plant owners can apply for a 20-year license extension. Only two NPPs have been awarded a second renewal, allowing operation for 80 years.

The NRC has amended its final rule on export and import regulations to provide updates and clarifications on the export of nuclear material. The amended rule would help prepare regulatory provisions for the entry into force of a new civil nuclear cooperation agreement (NCA) between the U.S. and the UK.

Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm has stated that the Biden administration opposes the use of Yucca Mountain a repository for nuclear waste. Announcing the administration’s position before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Granholm said that she would rely on the blue ribbon commission recommendations to identify a storage solution.

Unit 4 at the Vogtle NPP in Georgia has begun integrated flush, reaching a significant milestone towards ensuring the safe startup of the unit and marking the start of extensive systems testing.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
Iran has announced that the nation has now produced 17 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium at the Fordow enrichment facility this past month, exceeding its original production timetable of approximately 10 kilograms per month. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the U.S. would only rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) once the nation meets full compliance under the nuclear deal.
Noteworthy Research
The Centre for Policy Studies has published a new report ‘Bridging the Gap’ finding that the UK energy supply is at risk, as seven of its eight NPPs are slated to be decommissioned by 2030. The report urges the UK government to continue its support for nuclear power generation to complement the nation’s increasing renewable variability. 

In a new report ‘Socioeconomic Impacts from Nuclear Power Plant Closure and Decommissioning,’ the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative evaluates the economic value a typical NPP contributes to its host region and the total socioeconomic costs associated with the closure of all these plants. The report finds that the closure and decommissioning of all U.S. NPPs represents a total annual reduction in gross regional product of approximately $25 billion.

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy has published a report on ‘Forging a Path Forward on US Nuclear Waste Management.’ In this new analysis, Research Scholar Dr. Matt Bowen discusses the U.S. nuclear waste disposal issue, and potential approaches and lessons learned from projects in other nations and domestically that could serve as a policy guide for the U.S. moving forward.
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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