In this week’s issue, we discuss the need for the Biden administration to aggressively build a comprehensive civil nuclear strategy, effectively addressing key issues within the nuclear-climate-global security nexus. We also note a recent memo from The Climate 21 Project offering actionable advice to the Biden transition team on meeting it's ambitious climate objectives. Finally, we draw attention to global civil nuclear trends as China's Hualong One reactor has been formally certified by the European Utility Requirements (EUR) organization.
Building Back a Better Civil Nuclear Strategy
Nuclear power is never going to be at the top of the Biden administration’s list of the climate change solutions to achieve emissions-free electricity status by 2035. But it should be one of the key technology and policy pillars that the new administration aggressively builds out.
Not just because nuclear energy now provides over 50% of the carbon-free electricity in the U.S. But because the civil nuclear enterprise is increasingly about much more than limiting greenhouse gasses.
Along with clean energy expansion, the other key issues - global technological competitiveness, geopolitical influence, alliance relations, nonproliferation, and international security – comprise a new nuclear-climate-global security nexus.
Recognizing the growing importance of this issue intersection, over the past 4 years the U.S. government has established a bipartisan foundation of legislation and action designed to strengthen U.S. nuclear competitiveness. That work needs to be preserved and extended.
The actions taken so far have not transformed the position of the U.S. in the international nuclear commerce and leadership marketplace. There are numerous additional and difficult steps that are required. And the next several years will be critical in determining whether the country can reemerge as a major civil nuclear force.
U.S. political enthusiasm for next-generation, smaller nuclear reactors has been an important accelerant in the process so far. It is fueling regulatory innovation, making financing available, and pushing forward the demonstration of a handful of new technologies by mid-decade.   
But there is concern about whether the ambitious timetables can be met by a fragmented government that, so far, has not been aggressive in connecting all the relevant dots.
The failure to create a cohesive, multidimensional civil nuclear strategy will have important international consequences, including potentially locking in Russian and Chinese dominance over the global nuclear market. This is an important challenge that the new administration will need to confront, in part because the U.S. has vowed not to allow it to occur.
Creating a comprehensive, integrated, and effective strategy will not be an easy task. There are many moving parts that need to be synched, including: demonstrating technology and cost effectiveness; designing effective regulations and licensing; cultivating and supporting export markets; engaging nations in nuclear cooperation MOU’s and agreements; rebuilding reliable supply chains; mitigating nonproliferation and global security dangers; managing coordination and competition with allies; and convincing skeptics of the importance and value.
These requirements cut across government agencies and responsibilities and organizing among deeply entrenched silos will be an uphill battle. Rearranging the bureaucratic deck chairs may work, but probably not as a first step. Past experience indicates that task forces and agency upheaval are time consuming and distracting.
Building a better civil nuclear capability is something that can be done under the existing bureaucratic structure if it is identified as a presidential priority and a disciplined process is run out of the White House. Once there is some serious momentum, reorganization may be in order to further progress.
Early momentum is vital because ceding the international nuclear market to two authoritarian governments that are major geopolitical and technical competitors of the U.S. and its allies will be a serious mistake that is difficult to reverse.
For one thing, the stakes for global nuclear non-proliferation and security are very high. The next-generation of nuclear technology is going to require that safeguards and security requirements and recommendations evolve from their current forms. And the likely market for these reactors is largely going to be in volatile regions and among nations inexperienced in nuclear operation. One need only look at Saudi Arabia’s repeated commitment to arm itself with nuclear weapons if Iran achieves that capability to understand the combustible circumstances that exist in one region that is busy building nuclear infrastructure.
Past experience indicates that the most successful nuclear vendor nations have the most influence in developing the nuclear governance regime. So, democratic governments must have products that work for their clean energy needs at home and appeal to nuclear-interested nations abroad if they want to have significant sway over the next iteration of nuclear governance.
These allied nations also need to get on the same page regarding the role of nuclear power going forward. Along with the U.S., two other nations are clearly converging on the value of nuclear energy. Canada has made a significant commitment to small modular reactors. The U.K. has just announced a green industrial revolution that includes among its top ten priorities, “the next generation of small and advanced reactors.” Two other nations, Japan and South Korea, have the technical capabilities, research and development infrastructure, and active supply chains to be major players, but currently are limited in the role they can play because of domestic political constraints.  
The Biden administration is going to be aggressive in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions and one element of that will be nuclear energy. But, that technology is not just a clean power source. It has multidimensional implications for international security. That climate-nuclear-security nexus requires that a comprehensive strategy be built from the beginning.

Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security

The Climate 21 Project has released a series of memos that offer actionable advice to the incoming Biden administration for a whole-of-government climate response. Directed at 11 White House offices, ranging from the Justice Department to the Department of Energy, the project encourages significant investment in advanced nuclear technologies to meet the administration’s ambitious carbon goals.
Nuclear Collaborations
Xcel Energy and the Idaho National Laboratory have formed a private-public partnership to utilize hydrogen production through nuclear energy. The pair have received more than $10 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and hope to demonstrate how hydrogen production facilities can be integrated with existing nuclear power plants (NPPs) .
Rolls Royce and Exelon have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate the operation of compact NPPs in the United Kingdom and at selected sites overseas. The agreement will see Exelon assist Rolls Royce in the development of its U.K. Small Modular Reactors program (UKSMR), underpinned by a commitment to construct its reactors in a standardized, factory-built manner.
The nuclear regulatory authorities of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to strengthen their cooperation in nuclear and radiation matters, in a move building on an MoU signed by the two in 2019. The agreement is expected to focus chiefly on matters of nuclear regulation, including nuclear safety, security, nonproliferation, and legal frameworks.
Nuclear Policy, Governance, and Geopolitics
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans for the government’s new green energy initiative, which includes a significant focus on nuclear and hydrogen energy sources while seeking to create more than 250,000 jobs. The 10-point plan includes a £525 million investment into next generation small and advanced nuclear reactors, and a pledge to ban combustion engine sales by 2030.

China is negotiating to obtain “billions of dollars” of french nuclear technology which it seeks to use to expand its global influence, according to U.S.-based organization The Klaxon. The move comes after a 10 billion deal between China and France’s Orano Energy stalled in late 2018, and follows a visit from French Prime Minister Edouard Philipe the same year. 

The European Utility Requirements (EUR) organization has formally certified the Chinese-designed Hualong One reactor, paving the way for Chinese export of the technology to European Union nations. The assessment of the HPR1000 covered a broad range of safety and operational tests.

The United Nations has reportedly scheduled talks on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to take place in August 2021, after the conference was postponed this year. The review conference is held every five years.
Germany’s nuclear energy industry remains skeptical about the usefulness of small modular reactors (SMRs) in achieving its climate goals, despite calls by some climate activists to utilize the zero-carbon technology. The European nation has stood by plans to completely phase out nuclear energy by the end of 2022, with NPP owners repeatedly rejecting the idea that the nuclear ban be reversed. 

Inter Rao, one of Russia’s largest public energy companies, has withdrawn from Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant project due to tensions between Moscow and Ankara over a number of foreign policy issues. The withdrawal has been touted as significant by both parties involved, despite Inter Rao only holding a one per cent stake in the project.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power is bidding to secure the contract for the Czech Republic’s Dukovany NPP, after French-Japanese consortium ATMEA dropped out of the race. There are now only five bidders vying for the deal, including Chinese, French, Russian and U.S.-based companies. 

Ottawa has delayed releasing its SMR planning to the public, which will lay out the process of deploying and operating the reactors. The plan is expected to be released in the coming weeks, with Member of Parliament Paul Lefebvre claiming that “the action plan is too important to be rushed.”

Ontario Power Generation has announced that it will resume planning for the potential deployment of three SMR’s at its Darlington nuclear power plant, which currently houses four conventional CANDU reactors. The move pushes Canada a step closer to utilizing SMR technology to reach its climate goals, with hopes the new reactors will be operational by 2028.
An international consortium led by Rolls Royce has announced its plans to build up to 16 SMRs across the U.K., creating roughly 6,000 jobs in the process. The Prime Minister is expected to announce at least £200 million for the project as the U.K. seeks to balance its economic recovery with its 2050 climate goals.
A consortium of U.S.-based companies has reportedly approached the U.K. government about taking over the abandoned Wylfa NPP project in Wales after Hitachi withdrew over funding issues. The group, led by Bechtel and featuring Southern and Westinghouse, are keen to revive the £15-£20 billion project, which the U.K. government deems essential to meet the nation’s 2050 climate commitments.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his desire to expand nuclear power following the starting-up of the Astravets NPP, boasting that Belarus will “become a nuclear power”. Just days later, however, the plant was shut down, with regulatory authorities citing the need to replace some of its equipment.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa is considering approving 2,500 MW of nuclear power, marking a new step in the advancement of nuclear power in the country. The establishment of a nuclear power program has been opposed largely by environmentalists since discussions began, but labour unions and ministerial bodies have been mostly supportive. 

Japan’s Minister for Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama has signalled that the national government will not allow for the construction of new reactors for at least 10 years, claiming that public confidence in nuclear energy has failed to rebound after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, will receive the results of a study examining the feasibility of nuclear power in the Philippines by December, according to an inter-agency nuclear energy body created by the President. The Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee has assessed the impact that a civil nuclear program would have on the Philippines’ economy, energy sector and environment.
Domestic Civil Nuclear Developments
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo (R) has led a group of bipartisan senators to support a bill that aims to secure America’s nuclear fuel supply chain, advance its global standing and reduce carbon emissions through nuclear energy investments. The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 will require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review nuclear permitting processes, create incentives for new nuclear technologies and prevent existing reactors from shutting down. 

Senator John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming has announced that he plans to become the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Barrasso has expressed his desire to maintain U.S. energy independence and protect significant stretches of public parks. 

The Department of Defense (DOD) is hoping to obtain a SMR technology to provide localized power to its bases, helping to alleviate the threat to its energy supply. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested public input on a proposed rule for the licensing and regulation of advanced nuclear reactors. The Commission was tasked to develop regulatory infrastructure for the deployment and commercialization of advanced reactors, with comments open until November 2021.  

In an attempt to protect sensitive nuclear materials from being misused, the National Nuclear Security Administration has launched a new online tool to help users with the requirements surrounding international nuclear safeguards. The Reporting Assistant for International Nuclear Safeguards (RAINS) will be used by facility operators and regulatory staff to identify if safeguards apply to their situation. 

The Department of Energy (DOE) has released its ‘Hydrogen Program Plan’, which aims to advance the affordable production and use of hydrogen across different sectors of the economy. Nuclear energy is a cornerstone of the plan, with a commitment to first-of-a-kind nuclear-to-hydrogen project.
The U.S. Senate has proposed increased environmental spending in its fiscal 2021 budget proposal, including a $150 million investment in the development of a uranium reserve program. The proposed budget would also increase spending on nuclear energy research and development, while simultaneously investing in renewable energy.
NuScale has announced that its NuScale Power Module (NPM) SMR can generate an additional 25% more power per model than previously estimated, bringing the total generating capacity to 77MWe per module. The finding will allow NuScale to significantly lower its costs on a per kilowatt basis to approximately $2,850. The reactor is to be available in four-, six- and twelve-module sizes.
Nuclear Security and Emerging Technologies
A Saudi Arabian minister has announced that it reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons if the international community fails to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The move has serious implications for the international community and nuclear nonproliferation writ large, with concerns that nuclear proliferation in the Middle East could lead to geopolitical and nuclear insecurity.

 In a step towards the deployment of nuclear reactors in space, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has licensed its Kilopower space reactor technology to Space Nuclear Power Corporation (SpaceNukes). The initiative is aimed towards deep-space exploration and the possibility of human habitation on the Moon or Mars, with the proposed lightweight fission power system possessing a range of power outputs.
The Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has begun detailed fuel testing for Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), which it hopes will be up to 50% more efficient than traditional reactors. The work is centered on a graphite irradiation testing program, and is being completed in tandem with the Netherlands’ Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG).
Noteworthy Research
Connecting Nuclear and Climate Policy in the Biden Administration, a new briefer by the Council for Strategic Risks, explains the likely convergence of nuclear and climate challenges in the coming years, and offers a number of policy solutions for the incoming Biden administration.
The Nuclear Conversation
Global America Business Institute, November 17

Albuquerque Journal, November 14
VICE, November 13
MIT News, November 13

CounterPunch, November 13
World Nuclear News, November 12

Nuclear Energy Institute, November 12, November 11
Agneta Rising, in World Nuclear News, November 10
Forbes, November 9
Atlantic Council, November 7
Financial Times, November 6

The Hill, November 3

Forbes, October 21

Post Register, October 20

Post Register, October 18
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