In this week’s issue, we discuss recent trends in the civil nuclear export arena and identify new opportunities for the U.S. to capture the export market, enhancing U.S. geopolitical strength and bolstering global security. We also highlight a recent report that analyses climate-related outages in nuclear power plants over the past three decades and projects annual energy losses for the global nuclear fleet due to climate disruptions. Finally, we bring attention to the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation (NCMOU) signed between the U.S. and Ghana.
An Unconventional Strategy for Effective Nuclear Export
The environment for U.S. nuclear exports is evolving, creating opportunities for a resurgence. But the strategy for capturing the market is not keeping pace with the prospects. What is needed is some unconventional thinking on how the U.S. can strengthen its export position.
In the last week three developments have highlighted the disconnect in the American approach.
The signing of a Nuclear Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Ghana is an important step forward. NCMOUs are designed to support the entry of U.S. technology and companies into new markets in embarking nuclear nations. They do not substitute for formal nuclear cooperation agreements, but they open the door.
Ghana is the first NCMOU signed outside of Europe, and it signals an important expansion into the developing economy world where population growth, climate change, and electricity demand are driving the need for clean energy. The U.S. also is pursuing engagement with Kenya and Indonesia under the FIRST program. Both of these developments pave the way for the export of smaller next-generation reactors.
The U.K. may provide an assist to the U.S. large reactor nuclear industry as it contemplates blocking China from participation in the construction of new British nuclear plants. The China General Nuclear corporation currently has a one-fifth stake in the Sizewell C nuclear plant and plans to build the Chinese-designed Hualong One at Bradwell-on-Sea, a location close to London.
But U.K. officials are wary of the security implications of embedding China’s technology and influence in British critical infrastructure. One knowledgeable participant in the decision-making noted, this “could open up the opportunity for investment from the U.S.”
It also can provide an opportunity for the U.S. and South Korea to demonstrate their commitment “to develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects,” as agreed at this summer’s summit.
The U.K.’s pending decision is the third example of a European country ousting China from a civil nuclear power partnership in recent months. The other two being Romania and the Czech Republic.
On the other side of the ledger, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee made a curious and unexplained decision to eliminate funding for the Versatile Test Reactor, which is a component of the U.S. strategy for developing advanced reactors. These reactors are a foundation for the resurgence of U.S. nuclear exports deep into this century.
What this disconnect highlights is a lack of a modernized and politically cohesive strategy for how to strengthen American nuclear exports in a world where Russia currently dominates, China is angling for control, and effective nuclear security hangs in the balance.
The traditional American approach to cultivating new nuclear markets primarily is based on technical and policy collaboration with countries that seek U.S. assistance to prepare for nuclear energy deployment. That’s important but insufficient against Russia’s and China’s aggressive grab for market share.
An unconventional complement to that approach should include three new components.
First, get pre-commitments from embarking nuclear nations to purchase U.S. designed and qualified small modular or advanced reactors by proactively engaging them. The U.S. would assist the purchasing country by providing qualified operators for the reactor for the first 10-15 years of operation, while continuing and intensifying its bilateral training, governance, and nuclear infrastructure development. It would transfer the reactor, operation, governance infrastructure, and trained workforce to the recipient country at the end of the assistance period based on achievements linked to an adaptation of the IAEA’s Milestones recommendations.
Second, create a sustainable energy archipelago of nations in the developing economy world that are allied with U.S. nuclear technology and values. Match the reactors with the renewable energy technologies that the country is pursuing in an integrated package that can ensure steady, uninterrupted, diversified clean energy flow.
Third, provide U.S. financing that supports vendors and manufacturing scale, offers grants and low-interest loans to importing nations based on economic need and degree of climate change impact, and allows multilateral financial cooperation with key allies and international institutions.
These innovations have real world benefits. They strengthen U.S. nuclear values in the international marketplace. They counter the financial assistance being offered by Russia and China without creating debt traps. They increase the involvement of the U.S. government in cutting edge commercial nuclear technologies while preserving the essential market approach to nuclear commerce and correcting weaknesses. They bolster U.S. geopolitical strength and the global commitment to clean energy.
The energy and international security environments are mutating quickly and with regularity. That opens opportunities for the U.S. to reclaim its previous nuclear export pole position. But it won’t win the battle for global nuclear markets against determined, authoritarian competitors in this century by rerunning the old playbook. 

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

A new report, recently published in the online journal Nature Energy, finds that the average frequency of climate-induced disruptions at NPPs over the past three decades is dramatically increasing. Ali Ahmad, an energy policy and economics scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School, estimates that the average annual energy loss due to climate disruptions is estimated to range between 0.8% and 1.4% in the mid-term (2046-2065) and 1.4% and 2.4% in the long-term (2081-2100).
Nuclear Collaborations
The U.S. and Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation (NCMOU). The NCMOU provides a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and facilitates engagement between governments.
Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom signed a power supply agreement with GDK Baimskaya, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s Kaz Minerals Group, for a mining project that includes the planned use of floating NPPs. Rosatom plans to use three floating NPPs that will each utilize a pair of the new 55-MW RITM 200M reactors for the project.
Lightbridge Corporation, an advanced nuclear fuel technology company, signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The agreement’s goal is to “advance a critical stage in the manufacturing process of Lightbridge Fuel™.
Bechtel and Westinghouse Electric Company formed a team to pursue new nuclear power plant (NPP) projects in Poland. The announcement follows the U.S. Trade and Development Agency’s (USTDA) announcement that they will be providing a grant for a front-end engineering design for a NPP in Poland using Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
The United Kingdom is contemplating the removal of China’s state-owned nuclear energy company China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) from all future projects in the UK. This has implications on the Sizewell C NPP project in Suffolk that France’s EDF is slated to build with backing from CGN. A source familiar with the matter said that the government will move forward with the $27.5 billion Sizewell C project even without Chinese funding.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her decision to end Germany’s use of nuclear power by 2022, while acknowledging that the policy will make it more difficult to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term. The decision to phase out nuclear power was made in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
A heatwave in South Korea is straining the country’s power grid, raising fears of blackouts. The risk of power shortage was heightened as seven of the country’s 24 nuclear reactors were under maintenance during the heatwave, and two reactors were unexpectedly shuttered following a mechanical glitch.
The South Korean government’s nuclear phase-out policy is becoming a central topic in the presidential election. Opposition party candidates are increasingly critical of current President Moon Jae-in’s anti-nuclear policy, which halts the construction of new NPPs and prevents the extension of the lifespans of existing NPPs, with many stating they would reverse the policy if elected.
Japan has rebooted several power plants, including a long-dormant nuclear reactor, to prevent a power crisis. This comes as heightened temperatures and increased energy demand coincide with the Olympics in Tokyo.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) revealed that the company will not restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP until fiscal 2022 at the earliest. TEPCO cited security issues and public trust as hurdles that must be overcome before they can restart the NPP.
Government researchers in China unveiled their design for a commercial molten salt nuclear reactor. China hopes to build its first commercial molten salt reactor by 2030, with plans to build several reactors in the deserts of central and western China as well as up to 30 reactors in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
China Nuclear Power Engineering Company (CNPE) announced it successfully completed the structural integrity and integrated leak rate tests at unit 6 of the Fuqing NPP. The unit, which is one of two demonstration Hualong One reactors at the site, is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2021.
French power group EDF said that it would halt the Taishan nuclear reactor it operates with its Chinese partner, CGN, “if similar problems around fuel rod seals were to occur in France.” EDF stopped short of directly calling on China to stop operations as the decision to do so ultimately lies with CGN.
Rosatom is constructing a hydrogen production and conversion testing facility at the Kola NPP that will be put into operation by 2023. It is expected that the hydrogen production facility’s capacity will expand to 10 MW over time.
Rosatom launched construction for a research reactor facility in the Bolivian city of El Alto. The reactor is part of a nuclear technology research and development center (CNTRD) that is the highest nuclear facility in the world, located 4,000 meters above sea level.
The Egyptian government suspended technical meetings with Rosatom, which is constructing the El-Dabaa NPP, due to concerns of Russia’s growing support for Ethiopia in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute with Egypt. This follows an earlier statement from the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority that El-Dabaa NPP will not be completed before 2030, instead of 2028 as initially planned, due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The Taiwanese government announced plans to construct four liquified natural gas (LNG) plants to meet electricity demand as the nation will follow through with phasing out nuclear power by 2025. Taiwan’s energy transition policy projects the share of LNG to rise to 50 percent of its power generation.
The chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission confirmed that the country is moving forward with its three-point plan for the development of the nuclear energy sector, completing geological work to determine the level of uranium oxide reserves in the country’s central regions.
Slovenia’s infrastructure ministry issued an energy permit for the construction of a second unit at Krško NPP allowing permitting procedures to begin. The unit is expected to have an estimated production capacity of 9,000 GW of electricity per year and a lifespan of 60 years.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
The Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been downsized from 12 60-MWe NuScale Power Module units to six 77-MWe units. The number of project participants has decreased from 33 to 28. A 2030 start-up date is still envisaged for the CFPP.
Advanced nuclear engineering company Kairos Power announced its plans to invest $100 million to deploy a low-power demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge. The demonstration reactor is a scaled version of Kairos Power’s fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor and is intended to demonstrate the company’s ability to deliver low-cost heat.

A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA). The bill aims to ensure American leadership in the nuclear energy sector, modernize the nuclear supply chain infrastructure, and expand the domestic nuclear energy industry. Senator John Barrasso said the bill would help expedite the deployment of the Natrium reactor coming to Wyoming.
Exelon announced that four Illinois NPPs are approaching 15,000 days of uninterrupted service between the four plants. The four plants provide two-thirds of Illinois’ carbon-free energy, and the milestone has put pressure on state legislators to work on legislation that will allow the plants to continue operating.
DOE announced $125 million in awards to support clean energy technology projects. Funding programs include $8 million for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation program, $10 million for the Fusion Energy Sciences program, and $13.4 million for the Nuclear Energy program.
FirstEnergy will pay $230 million after entering into a deferred prosecution agreement over charges that the company bribed then-Ohio State House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission chair Sam Randazzo. According to a release from the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, the company conspired with public officials and is charged with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud. 
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
The Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security (AMSSNuR) was designated as the first IAEA Collaborating Center in the field of nuclear security in Africa. The AMSSNuR will serve as an important platform to support the IAEA’s efforts to enhance nuclear security in the region.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed eight bipartisan bills designed to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity and protect critical infrastructure. The bills will now head to the full House for a vote. One of the bills, H.R. 1374, the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2021, aims to “secure the energy infrastructure of the State against all physical and cybersecurity threats.”
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepted a topical report to apply Framatome’s suite of Advanced Codes and Methods to operating conditions with uranium-235 enrichments above the industry standard of five percent. It is an important step towards implementing nuclear fuel at higher enrichments and burnups and will help enhance the safety and economics of NPPs using such fuel.
An IAEA team concluded its SALTO (Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation) review mission at the Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria. The team found the operators to be professional, open and receptive to suggestions, and provided recommendations to support the operator in further enhancing safe LTO.
Noteworthy Research
In Social License in the Deployment of Advanced Nuclear Technology, the authors explore how the inclusion of social scientists increases the likelihood of successful deployment of energy infrastructure and propose specific steps to make future deployments of advanced nuclear technologies successful.
In Enhancing Military and Commercial Space power through Nuclear, Alex Gilbert, project manager at the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, offers an initial framework for understanding how nuclear energy builds national space power and a pathway for the U.S. to lead in space nuclear technologies.
The Nuclear Sector Deal’s Innovation Group released a report that sets out a series of recommendations for the UK to realize the opportunity of zero-carbon hydrogen derived from nuclear energy.
The Global Market Analysis of Microreactors summarizes work on the economics of, and market opportunities for, microreactors. It ranks potential markets in 63 countries, derives a range of possible demands, and evaluates emerging market trends and potential use cases for micro reactor deployment.
The Nuclear Conversation
The Mainichi, July 28
Devdiscourse, July 27
The Hill, July 27
Financial Times, July 26
World Nuclear News, July 26
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 26
The Hamilton Spectator, July 23
Scientific American, July 23
Vice, July 23
Boston Herald, July 22
Atlantic Council, July 22
Clean Air Task Force, July 22
Bangor Daily News, July 21
Union of Concerned Scientists, July 21
Creamer Media’s Engineering News, July 21
World Nuclear News, July 21
IAEA, July 21
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 21
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 21
The National Interest, July 20
Yahoo Finance, July 20
New Nuclear, July 20
Forbes, July 20
Politico, July 19
IAEA, July 19
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 19
South China Morning Post, July 19
Bangor Daily News, July 19
CBC Canada, July 19
European Leadership Network, July 19
Korea JoongAng Daily, July 18
The Korea Times, July 18
The Gazette, July 18
The Maritime Executive, July 18
Post-Gazette, July 18
The Globe and Mail, July 17
NASDAQ, July 16
All Africa, July 15
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