Private Industry Bets on Nuclear Energy

Most people think about energy in terms of their own use at home: for heating, lighting, cooking, and more. But, in the United States, residential consumption only represents 16% of total energy use. Commercial and industrial activities use three times as much energy. Power-hungry activities like data center operations and high-tech manufacturing underpin modern technology and must be able to run reliably without interruption. Constant operation means a 24/7 power supply is critical. Industrial processes like steel manufacturing and chemical production, which build cities and help grow food, need large amounts of process heat that is difficult to electrify. Energy is used all around us for more than just keeping our lights on. 

Private corporations across various industries aim to achieve this with an even smaller carbon footprint. In the tech sector, companies like Microsoft pledged to be carbon-negative, and Google aims to operate using 24/7 carbon-free power by 2030. Nucor, the largest U.S. steel producer, pledged net-zero production goals by 2050 to provide a fully clean steel product. Building upon these commitments, in March 2024, these companies announced that they are partnering to develop a business model that will allow them to procure clean electricity from new technologies such as new nuclear. 

While companies seek reliable and clean energy, utilities are struggling to keep up with exploding demand growth. These pressures drive a new trend —  private industry interest in new nuclear energy deployments to power data centers and steel manufacturing.

Figure 1: U.S. Data Center Development Pipeline

Source: 2023 U.S. Data Center Market Overview & Market Clusters by Newmark

Sending an email, searching the web or reading this blog requires connecting to a massive cyberinfrastructure, requiring constant power to operate seamlessly. These energy-hungry data centers contain servers that power cloud computing, data storage and novel AI technologies. A single server rack can use as much power as five U.S. homes, and “hyperscale” data centers house thousands of these servers. Data processing is a significant market for the United States: Loudoun County, Virginia, has more data center capacity than all of China. In 2023, data centers represented 2.5% of total U.S. electrical consumption. Today, grid planners expect the demand for energy in data centers to increase 2.5 times, a stat that has grown quickly since the introduction of AI.

Data giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are looking for new, clean, firm power sources, such as nuclear energy, to meet rising demand from data centers. In June 2023, Microsoft partnered with Constellation Energy to provide 35% of the power for a data center in Boydton, Virginia and invested in fusion startup Helion, intending to provide power by 2028. Similarly, Google has invested in fusion research company TAE since 2014, developing research reactors to power its data infrastructure. Amazon acquired a data center park adjacent to the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant. 

The interest in powering with nuclear isn’t limited just to newer tech companies. More traditional manufacturing companies see promise in nuclear reactors to provide reliable energy and heat for industrial operations in a way other clean technologies do not. Nuclear, like gas or coal, produces electricity by generating heat to boil water. Industrial processes can also use this high-temperature heat, which doesn’t work with non-thermal sources like hydro, wind, or solar.

Figure 2 Nuclear Process Heat for Industrial Applications

Existing and advanced technologies can produce heat at temperatures appropriate for various industrial activities

Source: World Nuclear Association 2021

Other traditional industrial manufacturers like Dow promised to reduce carbon emissions by 15% by 2030 and reach carbon-neutral by 2050. Dow and X-Energy, through the ARDP program, plan to build four small modular reactors (SMRs) by 2030 to provide high-temperature process heat and electricity to their Seadrift production site. The proof of concept supported by Dow's investment will provide reliable energy while reducing carbon emissions by 440,000 MT CO2e/year

Steel production alone represents 8% of energy end-use demand and 7% of total energy emissions. Nucor has turned to nuclear power to augment its production methods. In a series of investments, Nucor contributed $15 million to bolster the NuScale SMR in 2022 and $35 million to Helion in 2023 to deploy a fusion reactor. 

Companies with significant off-grid power needs, such as upstream oil and gas development, are exploring the potential of microreactors. These reactors are small compared to traditional reactors or even small modular reactors (SMRs), but could provide relatively large quantities of reliable power, competitive in off-grid applications. Several microreactor companies are currently working to deploy reactors for these purposes.  

Nuclear energy can be a key player in driving rapid growth and decarbonization in the industrial and commercial sectors. Traditional reactors can already provide large quantities of reliable, clean electricity, while several advanced reactors can provide high-temperature process heat or act as mobile generators for off-grid use. 

The bottom line is private companies across various sectors recognize the importance of 24/7 clean energy, and the potential role nuclear can play in decarbonizing the industrial and commercial sectors while meeting the challenge of rapid load growth. Traditionally, nuclear energy deployment has been top-down and utility-led, but today, power-hungry private industries may serve as the demand driver for new nuclear power. Targeted federal support will allow these private investments to flourish, ensuring America's competitiveness in the global marketplace.

International Financing of Nuclear Energy

House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions

Below is my testimony before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Non National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions on January 17, 2024 in a hearing titled, “International Financing of Nuclear Energy.”

Watch Niko’s Opening Remarks
Read Niko’s Full Testimony as Seen Below

Good morning, Chairman Luetkemeyer, Ranking Member Beatty, and Members of the Committee. My name is Nicholas McMurray. I am the Managing Director of International and Nuclear Policy at ClearPath, a 501(c)(3) organization that develops and advances policies that accelerate innovations to reduce and remove global energy emissions. To further that mission, we provide education and analysis to policymakers, collaborate with relevant industry partners to inform our independent research and policy development, and support mission-aligned grantees. An important note: we receive zero funding from industry. We develop and promote solutions that advance a wide array of low-emissions solutions — including advanced nuclear energy – that must be brought to bear to achieve our climate and development goals.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the Committee today regarding the crucial role of United States leadership in the international deployment of nuclear energy. The U.S. has a long, proud history of global leadership in nuclear technology. In 1951, the National Reactor Testing Station (forerunner to the Idaho National Lab) produced the first electricity powered by atomic energy. In 1955, the U.S. Navy launched the first nuclear-powered ship, the submarine USS Nautilus. Two years later, the first full-scale commercial power reactor was built in Pennsylvania. In response to oil price shocks and supply insecurity, in the 1970s, the United States initiated one of the largest deployments of nuclear reactors in history, reaching a peak of over 100 operating units in the 1990s.

Today, the U.S. aims to renew its global leadership. Recently, the U.S. and over 20 allies pledged to triple global nuclear energy capacity by 2050. This commitment recognizes reliable energy, like nuclear energy, is a necessary component to reduce global emissions while meeting economic development goals.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2023 World Energy Outlook shows that existing policies will leave the world a far cry from the goal of tripling global nuclear capacity. In particular, the IEA projects that existing policies will only increase global nuclear energy capacity by about 48% between 2022 and 2050. Tripling global nuclear capacity will be a significant undertaking that not only involves deploying new nuclear power plants domestically but also revitalizing the U.S. approach to building American reactors abroad.

I am excited to see this Committee address this monumental issue at such a timely moment. Achieving the global pledge to triple nuclear energy requires significant improvements to U.S. institutions as well as the modernization of the regulatory environment and export controls to reduce unnecessary red tape. This Committee plays a vital role in ensuring financing is available, especially to the developing world, for the global deployment of American clean energy technologies. Targeted investments in clean, reliable, affordable nuclear energy will contribute to enhanced energy security, geopolitical stability, and emissions reductions. With this in mind, I am going to highlight four important topics today:

  1. First, the global competitive landscape for nuclear energy projects, particularly concerning non-market competitors like China and Russia. Despite rapid advancements in U.S. nuclear energy innovations and U.S. leadership in operating nuclear plants, the nation has unfortunately surrendered its role as a global market leader for exporting nuclear projects. The U.S. must intensify its efforts, employing strategic initiatives, to reclaim this leadership.
  2. Second, adversaries such as China and Russia prioritize nuclear energy as a geopolitical tool, and the U.S. must remain competitive. Legislation like the International Nuclear Energy Act creates a Director of Nuclear Energy Policy to coordinate government agencies. Similarly, the International Nuclear Energy Financing Act would give Congressional direction to support nuclear at multilateral institutions like the World Bank. Both bills could be the first steps toward creating a more proactive and ambitious diplomatic stance to support and promote nuclear exports.
  3. Third, securing financing for U.S. projects competing against foreign state-owned enterprises is critical. For the U.S., this holds particularly true in strategically significant countries. Eliminating barriers to accessing funds at International Financial Institutions (IFIs), and empowering U.S. government agencies like the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) can support these ambitions. At the DFC, resources to build nuclear expertise and authorize expanded authorities will allow for greater investment and support for nuclear energy abroad.
  4. Fourth, burdensome regulatory requirements and slow licensing practices pose obstacles to deployment in the U.S. and abroad. Multiple agencies are involved in certifying nuclear exports, which then often need to be licensed again in the host country. The current system is simply not scalable to the ambition of these strategic goals. Proactive measures are essential for harmonizing licensing practices and building trust between the U.S. and partner countries.

The global competitive landscape for nuclear energy

Today, state-based actors like China and Russia are constructing more reactors each year, both domestically and internationally, and establishing more leadership in the global nuclear market. Although the U.S. still has the world’s largest domestic operating nuclear fleet, China is on its way to passing us. China currently has 55 reactors in operation and plans to build 23 new reactors across the entire country. In contrast, the U.S. has 93 in operation and only one under construction and nearing operational status – Vogtle Unit 4 in Georgia.

Recognizing the strategic advantage, these competitors are actively developing export markets for their domestic reactor technologies, a cornerstone of Russia’s foreign policy and likely to become one for China as well. When China or Russia sells a reactor to another country, the state-owned enterprise is the vendor, which receives significant diplomatic support and its deals are nearly fully financed by state banks on generous terms. For example, Russia provided Egypt with $25 billion – around 85% of the full cost – in financing on generous terms. Russia loaned Bangladesh 90% of the full cost of the Rooppur project with a cap on the interest rate. China recently announced it would provide the full cost, $4.8 billion, of a reactor it is building in Pakistan, and even gave a $100 million discount on the construction. Besides the geopolitical influence and economic value, these export markets play a crucial role in sustaining domestic industries.

Globally, Russian and Chinese reactors are in development in NATO-ally countries like Hungary and Turkey, as well as in significant U.S. partners like Egypt, Pakistan, and Argentina. Since 2000, Russia and China have collectively constructed 64 new reactors abroad, whereas the U.S. has built only five. As of March 2023, only six reactors were under development abroad by U.S. nuclear companies. Recent announcements to build three U.S.-designed reactors in Poland and three more reactors in Canada bring that total to 12 U.S.-designed reactors under development today.

New and forthcoming reactors worldwide (as of March 2023)

Competitor dominance of the civil nuclear export market challenges nuclear safety and safeguards standards, as well as undermines diplomatic partnerships and various U.S. geopolitical and economic priorities. The longevity of nuclear power plants, which can operate for 60 years or more, are a strong tool to secure our own partnerships for energy diplomacy. China and Russia offer a full-service suite of options, including construction, fueling, operation, waste disposal, and decommissioning. This approach can create decades-long dependencies for each reactor built by China and Russia. However, thanks to our strong civil nuclear industry, American companies can still provide services in a country that has a foreign reactor. For example, Ukraine’s fifteen nuclear reactors are of Russian design, and provide about half of the country’s electricity. This creates a significant dependence on Russia for nuclear fuel. However, a few months ago, Westinghouse manufactured and delivered new non-Russian fuel for Ukraine.

The last several years brought significant upheaval to global energy markets. Disruptions related to COVID, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and escalating tensions with China underscore the critical importance of energy security, not only for the United States but also for allies and partners worldwide. In the aftermath of the shortages of natural gas in 2022, many countries are cautious about making substantial commitments that would tether their energy security to Russia. For example, in 2022 Finland canceled a deal for a Russian-built reactor. Additionally, the escalating debt crisis stemming from Chinese investments may prompt countries to seek new partners.

Fortunately, the United States is well-positioned to seize this opportunity. Innovative companies are developing cutting-edge advanced nuclear technologies, and the U.S. remains a global leader in nuclear operations. This mirrors the success the U.S. is having in the natural gas sector. Public-private partnerships created the innovation in hydraulic fracturing that drove the massive shale boom. Today, the U.S. is by far the world’s leading producer of natural gas and exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG). This is a boon for the U.S. economically and geopolitically and drives significant emissions reductions. This dynamic could repeat itself in the advanced nuclear market, where a vibrant and dynamic advanced nuclear industry, led by innovative private companies and supported by public-private partnerships, is emerging in the United States.

For many countries, the United States continues to be the partner of choice. Initiatives at the U.S. Department of State and Department of Energy (DOE), such as the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST), have expanded the U.S. footprint of nuclear cooperation agreements. The global economic and policy landscape is primed for the United States to rapidly demonstrate and deploy these clean, reliable, and U.S.-made technologies.

While the U.S. and its allies have publicly committed to tripling global nuclear energy capacity, realizing this goal requires more than pledges alone. The U.S. must modernize its approach to keep pace with the global market to gain a competitive advantage. Congress can provide further direction to various government agencies by focusing on three major topics: 1) The U.S. needs an export strategy; 2) Supercharge U.S. export finance tools; and 3) Remove red tape that prevents scaling up nuclear technology.


The U.S. needs an export strategy

The expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have underscored the enduring need for the U.S. to be the global leader in energy exports. This leadership is essential not only for domestic energy security and achieving climate objectives but also for those of U.S. partners. Effectively countering China and Russia in this arena will require coordinated action by EXIM, the DFC, and others working in conjunction with partners and allies.

Unfortunately, the United States’ current approach to commercial diplomacy and export support for nuclear energy is fragmented and lacks cohesion. The process of exporting a nuclear reactor involves coordination among multiple entities, including Departments of State, Energy, Commerce, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, EXIM, DFC, the U.S. Trade Representative, the National Security Council (NSC), and others. While some initiatives, like the FIRST program, have attempted to coordinate these agencies and advance commercial cooperation with U.S. allies abroad, they are tied to individual Presidential administrations. Actions like institutionalizing the FIRST program would codify these gains and create a platform to improve upon. Ultimately, for U.S. companies to compete with the state-backed Chinese model, organized support across the federal government and the private sector is crucial.

Legislation has been introduced, such as the bipartisan International Nuclear Energy Act (H.R. 2938), sponsored by Representatives Donalds (R-FL) and Clyburn (D-SC) to address these challenges. This legislation aims to formulate a civil nuclear export strategy to counter the growing influence of Russia and China. The proposed solution involves developing a national strategic plan that advocates for partnerships with allied nations and encourages coordination among civil nuclear nations in areas such as financing, project management, licensing, and liability. The bill emphasizes the importance of prioritizing safety, security and safeguards as foundational elements for a successful and competitive nuclear export program. Additionally, the legislation establishes an Office of the Assistant to the President and Director of Nuclear Energy Policy to oversee the implementation of the strategy to ensure cohesion and coordination.
Currently, the World Bank and other similar IFIs lack expertise in nuclear energy projects and, consequently, refrain from funding them. The U.S. Secretary of the Treasury serves as a Governor of the World Bank, providing the U.S. with an opportunity to leverage this influence. The International Nuclear Energy Financing Act, introduced by Representatives McHenry (R-NC) and Hill (R-AR), would require the United States Executive Director at the World Bank to advocate and vote for financial assistance for nuclear energy. The bill would also permit U.S. representatives at other international financial institutions – including regional development banks for Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America – to push for nuclear projects. The World Bank and other multilateral development banks play a significant role in infrastructure planning around the world, so getting them engaged in nuclear energy will be instrumental in increasing global deployment.


Supercharge U.S. export finance tools

Since 2000, China has rapidly ascended as a pivotal financier in global energy, committing more than $234 billion to some 68 strategically significant nations. China channeled a staggering 75% of these investments toward projects in coal, oil, and gas. Between the years 2016 and 2021, China’s financing of global energy initiatives outpaced the combined contributions of all major Western-backed Development Banks. Chinese authorities have expressed their intent to construct up to 30 nuclear reactors abroad by 2030, with agreements already finalized in Argentina and ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and other nations.

Once China nears completion of its ambitious domestic nuclear buildout, it is reasonable to expect to see a sharp pivot abroad and a surge of Chinese nuclear reactor exports, complete with predatory lending practices and coercive, non-market tactics. Generous state-sponsored financing is likely to support these projects. Earlier this year, China and Pakistan celebrated the completion of the Karachi Huanglong One 1.1 GW nuclear power plant, backed by Chinese financing at a cost of $2.7 billion. Unfortunately, this is a more competitive price point than comparable U.S. commercial ventures, so the U.S. needs to compete in other areas – such as operations, safety, security, technical and regulatory expertise, and fuel.

The dynamic and innovative U.S. nuclear technology companies are not operating in a fair and open market. It is imperative that the U.S. level the playing field for its clean energy exports by advancing thoughtful reforms to existing agencies. As two of ClearPath’s advisors — DJ Nordquist, Former World Bank Group Executive Director, and Jeffery Merrifield, Former NRC Commissioner — noted in a Foreign Affairs piece, last year, an Egyptian presidential advisor told a group of U.S. lawmakers that countries like hers want dependable energy financing and would welcome American investment, but the U.S. hasn’t been showing up to meet that demand. That’s why Egypt, a major non-NATO ally of the U.S., instead selected Russia’s Rosatom to finance and construct its new nuclear plant. The El Dabaa nuclear power plant is already under construction and will likely lock Egypt into a relationship with Russia for decades.
Improvements to existing agencies are needed to compete globally. EXIM is designed to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. exporters in the global marketplace. In the December 2019 reauthorization of EXIM (P.L. 116-94), Congress directed EXIM to establish a “Program on China and Transformational Exports” (see Sec. 402) with the intention of countering China’s state corporations’ business practices by expanding EXIM’s mandate to support exports in transformational sectors; however, it currently excludes nuclear technologies.

Proposed legislation such as the Civil Nuclear Export Act of 2023 (CNEA), sponsored by Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Risch (R-ID), seeks to address this gap by including nuclear projects in the “Program on China and Transformational Exports.” CNEA introduces several measures aimed at enhancing the ability to provide competitive financing options and compete effectively in emerging markets globally. This adjustment is expected to provide additional support to nuclear projects facing competition from Chinese state corporations. This legislation would also raise EXIM’s default rate limit from 2% to 4%, which would allow EXIM extra flexibility to support larger nuclear power projects.

Similarly, the DFC plays a pivotal role in bolstering U.S. clean energy exports by providing finance for highly developmental projects, including energy infrastructure. Established by the bipartisan BUILD Act of 2018 and formally incorporated in late 2019, Congress envisioned the DFC as a powerful successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), equipped with broader authorities and a greater capacity to invest in burgeoning foreign markets. These unique authorities include the ability to make long-term loans, take equity investment positions, and exhibit more flexibility than EXIM regarding the types of projects it can support. Notably, in 2020, the Trump Administration lifted the DFC’s ban on supporting nuclear energy projects, highlighting its evolving role in facilitating the advancement of clean energy initiatives.

Until now, the DFC has only engaged with U.S. nuclear export projects on a preliminary basis. The corporation lacks nuclear-specific operational experience and dedicated staff with expertise on projects in the nuclear sector. This limitation hampers its ability to assess the technology risk and intricacies of these complex projects. The DFC’s CEO, Scott Nathan, recently highlighted another significant constraint; the current budgetary scoring system fundamentally undermines the equity investment tool granted to the DFC by Congress, preventing the agency from providing more flexible financing options. Lastly, DFC’s cap of $1 billion for individual investments may impede the agency from supporting larger nuclear projects. While DFC has signaled support for the Romanian and Polish nuclear power projects, the cap restricts the level of support to significantly below the likely project cost.

The DFC is due for reauthorization in the Fall of 2025. This presents an opportune moment to reassess, refine, and enhance the corporation, its tools, and its mandate to better align with U.S. strategic energy objectives. Without strengthening entities like DFC, the U.S. puts itself and its private-sector innovators at a strategic disadvantage against foreign state-owned enterprises looking to build abroad.


Remove red tape that prevents scaling up nuclear technology

Tripling the world’s nuclear capacity is a massive undertaking that will require constructing hundreds of new reactors. This could entail obtaining numerous regulatory approvals and licenses in the United States alone. However, challenging regulatory barriers, lengthy licensing and permitting timelines, and bureaucratic inefficiencies have proven to be significant obstacles to the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactors here in the United States. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for successfully implementing ambitious nuclear energy expansion.

Introducing innovative U.S. nuclear technologies to the world is essential for fulfilling the tripling pledge and aligning with geopolitical security goals. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will almost certainly need to license a reactor design in the U.S. before a country would be willing to build it. Especially for countries looking at nuclear energy for the first time, they are likely inclined to prefer designs with a proven safety track record in the U.S. An efficient and agile U.S. regulator is therefore fundamental, not only for domestic deployment but also for ensuring the competitiveness of the U.S. nuclear industry in the international market. The NRC anticipates at least 13 current and potential applications by 2027, and it’s important that these move forward expeditiously.

The NRC is responsible for overseeing the safe operation of nuclear power in the United States. To achieve ambitious goals, it is vital for the NRC to attract and retain the right staff and capabilities. Additionally, modernized structures, processes, and policies need to be established to efficiently and effectively review and license the diverse array and volume of new nuclear technologies. This modernization aims to provide a predictable regulatory environment while maintaining reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety.

Even after the NRC licenses a reactor design and the reactor is constructed and safely operated, it then still must receive export approvals, and be licensed by the other country’s regulator. A company seeking to export a reactor to a partner country faces a multi-step process. It must obtain export licenses or authorizations to export the reactor, fuel, and other related equipment from the NRC under 10 CFR Part 110, from the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce for equipment subject to EAR (Export Administration Regulations), and then by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration under 10 CFR part 810. Furthermore, a corporation can only transfer nuclear technology to countries in which the Department of State has negotiated a “123 Agreement.” This intricate regulatory framework underscores the complexity involved in exporting nuclear technology and highlights the necessity of complying with various governmental entities.

It is essential for nuclear reactors to be well-regulated to prioritize safety, security, and non-proliferation. Modernizing the NRC is a critical initial step. Yet, beyond that, there is a need for harmonizing and streamlining international regulatory processes to facilitate the efficient and expeditious deployment of nuclear reactors on a large scale.

The NRC can contribute to the goal of tripling nuclear energy worldwide by taking on greater international cooperation and relationship-building activities. The NRC could conduct joint reviews of regulations with international partners to allow for better alignment between U.S. and foreign regulatory bodies. The NRC could also incorporate and leverage harmonized license reviews performed by non-U.S. regulators into its reviews, and lay the groundwork for other regulators to do the same. New nuclear energy will have a global impact, and regulatory practices can be shared to strengthen international partnerships, accelerate the learning curve of global regulators to improve safety and security, and ease the burden on U.S. innovators deploying internationally. Further Congressional action and direction is needed to undertake a full-scale international initiative to lower regulatory barriers to export markets.


Conclusion

An all-of-the-above clean energy strategy is the only viable path for achieving global emissions reduction targets, which means the world needs to quickly deploy clean, reliable, affordable energy like nuclear power. At a time when China and Russia are ramping up financial support, the U.S. needs to reinvigorate not only its own financing tools, but also call upon IFIs like the World Bank to reassess their nuclear energy policies, including opportunities and challenges, rather than simply defaulting to “no.”

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. ClearPath is eager to assist the Committee in developing innovative policy solutions to ensure U.S. leadership in international clean energy financing. We applaud the Committee for taking on this critical task to help ensure the appropriate action, including policies that will help advance innovative technologies to provide clean, reliable, and necessary energy to the United States and the world.

Nuclear Fuel 101

Advancing American Clean Energy Leadership at COP28

November 30 marked the start of the 28th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28), where a historic 97,000 participants registered and over 80,000 convened in Dubai, UAE to collaborate on solutions to reducing global emissions.

The outcome of the first global stocktake has received mixed feedback; regardless there were several developments from COP28 that should be celebrated.

First, the U.S., UK and Canada, along with more than 20 other countries, launched an ambitious call to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050.

To triple nuclear capacity from now until 2050, the world will have to build around 30 large reactors each year, even more, if replacing retiring capacity is necessary or if smaller reactors take off.

ClearPath partnered with the World Nuclear Association on a number of events, including one where ClearPath CSO Jeremy Harrell spoke of the increasing bipartisan support for advanced nuclear and America’s position to lead global deployment.

Second, at COP28, conservatives took a leadership stake by driving discussions centered around an all-of-the-above approach to clean energy solutions.

In fact, there were a record number of Congressional Republicans at COP28, solidifying their ambitions to be part of the dialogue and present positive solutions. ClearPath collaborated with the bipartisan delegation by hosting several panels and joining them at others. Our CEO Rich Powell and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) hosted a fireside chat highlighting American policies that have catalyzed a range of technologies. Senator Murkowski emphasized the impact the Energy Act of 2020 had on authorizing advanced nuclear, but called for restructured permitting to ensure projects face reasonable timelines for attracting private investment.

ClearPath discussed permitting with Congressional leadership including Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Representative Scott Peters (D-CA). Powell led the conversation around the time-sensitive need for bipartisan legislation to address the broken permitting system.

L to R: ClearPath CEO Rich Powell, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), Representative Scott Peters (D-CA), Representative John Curtis (R-UT), and Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Alongside participation with conservative leadership, ClearPath highlighted pragmatic solutions to fill the white space of clean energy deployment. Compared to previous years, carbon management and nuclear energy were previously shunned; however, at this year’s conference, the final agreement calls for the acceleration of carbon capture and nuclear technologies. ClearPath’s participation in events helped underscore the importance of these vital technologies.

Speaking of technologies, that brings up a third key theme of COP28 — carbon management. In an event with Axios, ClearPath CEO Rich Powell referenced the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which specified the need for carbon removal technologies to stabilize global temperatures, while also noting the technology’s unique ability to retrofit existing infrastructure and preserve jobs.

L to R: Rich Powell (CEO, ClearPath); Nicholas Johnston (Publisher, Axios)

Photo Credit: Arthur Abraham/ Haiku D Photography on behalf of Axios

By collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders with big ideas on solving the climate challenge, ClearPath left COP28 with a great deal of optimism. It was a pivotal opportunity to elevate nuclear energy, carbon management and conservative leadership. Ensuring American leadership remains prominent on the international stage is crucial for securing a future with both a prospering environment and economy.

Here’s The Biggest Development That Emerged From COP28 (The Daily Caller)

This op-ed was originally published by The Daily Caller on December 13, 2023. Click here to read the entire piece.

The strongest development coming from the annual United Nations climate conference this year was the ambitious call to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050.

The U.S., UK and Canada, along with more than 20 other countries, launched this initiative at the United Nations Climate Change Conference’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP28), an annual event that has often shunned or ignored nuclear energy as a climate solution.

To triple nuclear capacity from now until 2050, the world will have to build around 30 large reactors each year, even more, if replacing retiring capacity is necessary or if smaller reactors take off.

This goal is achievable if the U.S. gets its federal policy right. Despite the anti-nuclear crowd’s best efforts in recent decades, the U.S. is still, in fact, the global leader in nuclear technology and, with the right policies, could see a booming U.S. industry with global reach.

To capitalize on this opportunity, policymakers should focus on three things: fixing how we license new nuclear reactors, ensuring we get innovative designs to market and developing a robust domestic fuel supply chain.

Congress has been grappling with how best to modernize permitting and make the 1970s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) work for energy projects of the 2020s, streamlining litigation backlogs and providing pre-clearance for projects regulators know will have no environmental problems. These reforms are needed across the energy spectrum, including nuclear.

American entrepreneurs are also up to the challenge of meeting demand. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) anticipates at least 13 applications for advanced reactors by 2027. The projects in the pipeline today employ thousands of Americans, and these are just the tip of the spear.

Last year, Southern Nuclear loaded fuel in the first Westinghouse AP1000 reactor at the Vogtle site in Waynesboro, Georgia. When all units are operational, the entire Vogtle Plant will be the largest producer of clean energy in the U.S., powering more than one million homes and businesses and employing more than 800 highly paid professionals.

Click here to read the full article

America’s Development Finance Shows Global Energy Leadership

Rising geopolitical tensions mark the enduring need for international leadership from the United States, not only for our energy security and clean energy goals but also for U.S. allies and partners. The U.S. has made significant strides toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions while improving its energy security over several decades. However, reducing global emissions and curbing the ambitions of America’s adversaries will require both the deployment of next-generation clean energy technologies domestically and abroad.

U.S. export and development financing are key dimensions of American engagement around the world to address the dual imperatives of energy security and clean energy deployment. To this end, the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is a key, independent agency within the U.S. government that works with the private sector to finance projects that address pressing international challenges, including energy and critical infrastructure.

Congress formed the DFC in 2018 with bipartisan support amid growing competition for overseas infrastructure projects. Alongside partner agencies, the DFC brings unique flexibility and capabilities – such as direct equity investments – that are important for U.S. energy diplomacy. The DFC’s upcoming reauthorization in 2025 will provide an opportunity to reinforce and enhance its unique capacity to drive international impact with American-backed energy.

 


 

Making Energy a Priority

Since its creation, the DFC has made some notable geostrategic clean energy investments. For example, the DFC recently invested in TechMet Limited to develop nickel and cobalt resources in Brazil and approved a $500 million loan to set up First Solar’s India factory, both of which help to diversify clean energy supply chains away from China.

Additionally, in 2020, the DFC removed its moratorium on funding nuclear energy projects. Lifting this ban enhanced DFC’s potential impact by allowing it to support the commercialization of clean, firm energy in strategically important areas and create markets for the U.S. nuclear industry. The DFC has submitted letters of interest to support $1 billion in advanced nuclear projects in Poland and Romania. Although the DFC has expressed interest in these cases, it is yet to robustly engage in supporting nuclear energy projects.

The DFC committed to growing its climate-focused investment to 33% of new investments by fiscal year 2023. However, this will likely require significant expansion of energy investments, which only made up 18% of outlays from 2020-2022.

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DFC Energy Financing (2020-2022)

Source: USASpending.gov,ForeignAssistance.gov; Data represents the DFC’s total outlays and does not include political risk insurance.

Energy systems” pertains to projects broadly aimed to improve energy reliability and affordability.
“Other” includes a combination of smaller scale clean energy projects such as a hydrogen project, geothermal project, agriculture project and a critical minerals project.

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Looking Ahead: Enhancing DFC’s Clean Energy Capabilities

The DFC is slated for reauthorization in 2025, presenting an opportunity to improve its efficiency and impact. Six improvements that could significantly expand DFC capabilities to promote U.S. national and economic security through energy investments, while retaining its core developmental mandate are:

1. Expand Expertise with Personnel – The DFC could have a greater impact with more geographical and domain-specific expertise. The DFC was originally constructed in teams based around its products. However, the DFC’s leadership has proposed reorganization to focus on sectors like energy. In doing so, it will be important for the DFC to build personnel capabilities in areas such as nuclear power, long-duration energy storage, carbon capture and critical minerals in order to better structure deals and make strategic investments.
2. Investment Scoring Fix – Despite being the only agency with Congressional authorization to make direct equity investments, this critical tool has largely gone unused. This is due, in part, to how the investments are “scored” from a budgetary standpoint. In particular, the DFC’s equity investments are scored like a grant instead of a loan, so it assumes no return on the investments made. Thus, this method of scoring requires significantly more budget authority, especially for larger projects, which limits the ability to invest in such projects. In a recent Senate Foreign Relations hearing, DFC CEO Scott Nathan noted that fixing the equity scoring challenge was his “highest priority.” Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coon (D-DE) recently introduced legislation (S.3005 – Enhancing American Competitiveness Act of 2023) proposing a fix.
3. Contingent Liability Cap – The DFC has the authority to maintain up to a $60 billion project portfolio from the U.S. Treasury. In comparison to the capital expenditure needed for large-scale infrastructure projects, including clean energy, $60 billion in total financing is not adequate. For perspective, since 2000, Chinese state-owned banks have provided over $234B in international financing just for energy sector projects. Expanding the DFC’s liability cap to $100B, as proposed in S.3005, or introducing an automatic inflation adjustment would give significant breathing room to make more impactful investments.
4. Loan Size Cap – Large projects like nuclear power plants, mines for critical minerals and energy supply projects require large investments. The DFC currently has a hard cap of $1 billion for an individual loan or guarantee. Raising this, tying it to a fraction of the portfolio, or removing it entirely would allow DFC greater flexibility to invest in large-scale energy projects.
5. Middle-income country restrictions – The DFC currently requires a waiver to work outside low-income countries. Expanding the DFC’s country eligibility would allow for higher-impact investments in Southeast Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, all aligned with strategic goals. This is relevant for larger economies where global carbon emissions carbon emission reduction potential is greater but still requires significant developmental support.

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DFC Energy Financing by Region (2020-2022)

Source: USASpending.gov,ForeignAssistance.gov; Data represents the DFC’s total outlays and does not include political risk insurance.

6. Addressing Currency Risk – One of the biggest challenges for developing bankable projects in emerging markets is currency risk (e.g., when the local currency loses value while the original liabilities remain denominated in U.S. dollars). The DFC already has statutory authority to make loans in local currencies but could benefit from additional safeguards. Taking on some currency risk, either by lending in local currency or by cost-sharing risk out of its program account, could make some projects more viable for the DFC.

For a relatively new federal agency, the DFC has already established itself as a key player in the United States’ global strategic and development efforts. To hone the DFC’s capabilities, targeted improvements and enhancements can allow it to make the most efficient use of relevant resources. The 2025 upcoming reauthorization for the DFC is an opportune time to cut bureaucratic red tape and make meaningful changes, empowering the DFC to be an even more impactful player in America’s clean energy strategy around the world.

Clean Hydrogen Paves the Way Forward to Lowering Emissions

On October 13th, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected seven public-private partnerships spanning 16 states as part of DOE’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program (H2Hubs). Created by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA), the seven hydrogen hubs are expected to stimulate $40 billion in private funding, resulting in a combined public and private investment of nearly $50 billion, and create more than 330,000 direct jobs. These hubs can potentially reduce the emissions equivalent to over 5.5 million cars.

The H2Hubs represent the growing market demand for domestic, clean hydrogen that can reduce emissions in difficult-to-decarbonize sectors, like steel or other industrial applications.


Hubs Announced

The DOE selected seven hubs across the country that will utilize diverse feedstocks to produce hydrogen for various end-uses. Initially, the DOE received 79 applications and encouraged 33 applicants to submit complete applications. Because of this competitive process, the seven awardees will exceed the required 50/50 cost share and match more than five dollars in private investment with every U.S. taxpayer dollar. In addition to incentivizing massive private investment, the hubs will create thousands of jobs. The Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) hub anticipates creating 220,000 direct jobs – 90,000 permanent jobs and 130,000 construction jobs. The other six hubs range from 3,880 to 45,000 direct jobs.

States Awarded Hydrogen Hubs

Source: DOE H2Hubs Press Release

H2Hubs Project Details

Source: Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2),Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES)HyVelocity Hydrogen HubHeartland Hydrogen HubMid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2)Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2)Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNW H2)

Diversity of feedstock and end-use pathways is key to the long-term success of the hydrogen market in the U.S. It adds resiliency to the regional value chain and encourages the adoption of low-emissions technologies across the U.S. The IIJA required the DOE to select diverse feedstocks and end uses. Electrolysis via renewable energy represents the majority of production. It is in five of the seven hubs; natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCUS) is utilized in three hubs, nuclear energy is used in three hubs and biomass is used in one hub. Most hubs contained more than one type of end-user sector with various end uses, including glass production, power generation, refining and petrochemicals.


Looking Ahead

Next Steps on Hub Development
As recommended in ClearPath’s implementation memo from January 2022 following the passage of IIJA, the DOE has a milestone-based, four-phase funding structure for the implementation of the H2Hubs program, in which it will evaluate each hub between phases for the next tranche of funding. Since clean hydrogen is a nascent energy sector without much-existing infrastructure to leverage, the hubs will need to build out infrastructure and at the same time, lower costs. This presents a challenge that phased funding helps solve by ensuring if a hub is not able to move forward, then funds can be reallocated to other hubs that can reach the next project phase.

45V Hydrogen Production Tax Credit

In addition to the hub funding, the awardees can use the 45V tax credit, which is a financial incentive for hydrogen producers, tiered based on the emissions intensity of production. Lower-emissions hydrogen receives a higher tax credit. The tax incentive boosts hub economics by lowering the price of produced hydrogen, which focuses IIJA funds on early-mover infrastructure costs. The tax credit also sends a market signal to interested developers to join an established hub. The U.S. Department of Treasury is in the process of developing the guidance for 45V, which is expected by the end of 2023. Clarity on the applicable tax credit amount is important to the hubs’ financial and project planning because a lower-than-anticipated tax credit would redirect funds away from capital investments toward lowering costs. It is vital for the Treasury to finalize guidance before the hubs finish contract negotiations in Q1 of 2024.

Hydrogen Pipelines
It is equally essential that the hubs develop cohesive midstream infrastructure because distribution and storage can more than double the cost of delivered clean hydrogen. To reach net-zero by 2050, the DOE anticipates that 30 percent of total hydrogen investment must be in midstream infrastructure. In the ARCH2 description, the White House specifically mentions, “the strategic location of this Hydrogen Hub and the development of hydrogen pipelines, multiple hydrogen fueling stations, and permanent CO2 storage also have the potential to drive down the cost of hydrogen distribution and storage.” However, in a recent report, the International Energy Agency said current project lead times are too long and can act as a barrier to clean hydrogen uptake, urging governments to make “licensing and permitting processes as efficient as possible.” To recognize hydrogen’s full potential, regulation and permitting must be improved so hydrogen developers can efficiently and affordably deploy midstream infrastructure.

Development of a Supplementary H2Hubs Program
The DOE Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) is also developing a demand-side mechanism to support reliable offtake for H2Hubs. The purpose is to tackle revenue uncertainty from the imbalance caused by short-term offtake contracts and expected cost reduction from fast-follower producers. The agency released a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking an independent entity to administer the initiative earlier this year. Note the DOE is expected to make its selection by Q1 of 2024.


Our Take

The Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs signify a bipartisan effort to increase American energy and national security by utilizing America’s domestic energy resources, while tackling emissions from difficult-to-decarbonize sectors.

This ambitious initiative, born from bipartisan collaboration and enacted in the IIJA, embodies a vision that emboldens American innovation. It harnesses our natural resources and further reduces global emissions while growing our economy. These hydrogen hubs, spread across 16 states, carry the promise of not only creating hundreds of thousands of jobs but also securing the nation’s clean energy future. By fostering a clean and affordable hydrogen industry that utilizes American resources, the hubs align seamlessly with conservative goals of improving domestic energy security and bolstering local economies.

The WORLD Wants New Nuclear

The data is in…nuclear energy is far more popular than you may have guessed. One of the largest research projects around nuclear energy sentiment conducted in recent history confirms this, but the U.S. Congress has also taken significant, bipartisan steps showing the growing support for more nuclear energy. In July, the U.S. Senate voted 96-3 on a provision that would strengthen U.S. global leadership in nuclear energy by improving the fuel supply chain.

The Potential Energy Coalition, a nonprofit focused on low-cost decarbonization pathways, surveyed 13,500 people from eight countries and discovered immense global nuclear energy support.

Building new nuclear is an integral part of meeting the U.S. climate goals. Nuclear energy is low-carbon, and reliable – able to run 24/7. New nuclear technologies, often referred to as advanced nuclear, bring additional advantages such as improved safety conditions, far-reaching distribution, and the ability to reduce emissions in non-electric sectors like refining or heavy manufacturing. The U.S. should leverage more nuclear energy, not only in response to the climate, but also for its economic advantages, and this research is a good sign there is plenty of support for this effort. ClearPath has five key takeaways from the global research.


1. 5:1 People Support New Nuclear Globally

Nuclear power is more popular than most people have been led to believe. For decades nuclear power has been cast as divisive – even recently a 2023 Gallup Poll and a 2021 Pew Research Study found that Americans are split on nuclear energy with 50-55% in favor of new nuclear. However, studies of this nature downplay the public’s support for nuclear power. They typically only include a small sample group of about 1000 people and do not address those who may lean one way or another towards accepting or opposing nuclear energy, but are reportedly undecided.

Potential Energy took a bigger approach. They surveyed over 2,000 Americans and a total of 13,500 people globally including South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Sweden. When asked a yes or no question about whether advanced nuclear energy should be part of the U.S.’ energy future, over 76% of Americans were supportive, an encouraging sign for U.S. policymakers advancing nuclear energy policy and for future nuclear energy bills.

Between the eight countries, on average nearly 64% of people clearly support advanced nuclear; although, the average percentage of people in support of advanced nuclear power skyrockets to 79% when people are presented with only yes or no options. Even in countries where anti-nuclear policies were implemented in recent years, such as Germany and Japan, 72% and 65% of the populations, respectively, favor nuclear energy. As support for nuclear energy increases, governments should cooperate to deploy dispatchable and reliable nuclear energy.

Nuclear Support by Country

Source: The World Wants New Nuclear, Figure 4


2. New Nuclear is Supported by All Ages – Especially Younger Generations

Gen Z and Millennials have grown up with a constant barrage of climate news. Combine that with the climate impacts in the U.S. and around the world, you can understand why younger generations are less likely to oppose nuclear energy. They view both climate action and energy independence as extremely important, and are more flexible on taking an all-of-the-above approach to clean energy solutions. As noted in the chart below, ages 18-54 hold less strong opinions on nuclear energy than ages 55 and above.

Generational Nuclear Support Trends

Source: The World Wants New Nuclear, adapted from Figure 7


3. Demographics Have Minimal Impact on New Nuclear Support

People of all backgrounds support nuclear energy. Combining income, education, and occupational demographic factors, Potential Energy split its participants into four groups:

1. Pro-Growth Established (28% of the sample)

2. Concerned Professionals (27% of the sample)

3. Hard Working Pragmatists (30% of the sample)

4. Determined Skeptics (15% of the sample)

Except for the Determined Skeptics, barely 1/7 of each of these groups oppose nuclear power. Many people recognize the importance of nuclear power. When provided information about nuclear energy’s potential in accelerating clean innovation, maintaining energy independence, optimizing land-use, boosting the economy, and meeting climate goals, 70% of each country’s population viewed nuclear energy more favorably. This is a good reminder for nuclear advocates to highlight nuclear energy advancements and nuclear energy policy that benefit the public.

Support for New Nuclear

Source: The World Wants New Nuclear, adapted from Figure 19


4. New Nuclear Support is Nonpartisan

In the U.S. at least 60% of voters in each major party support nuclear energy. However, this trend is not unique to the U.S.. The average support mirrors these trends and is similarly nonpartisan throughout all of the countries surveyed.

Because nuclear power is accepted regardless of political stances, it should be treated in a non-partisan and non-regional manner. Recent examples in the U.S. Congress include the 96-3 and 86-11 Senate votes to amend the Nuclear Fuel Security Act and the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act to the National Defense Authorization Act respectively.

Global Average Political Party Support for New Nuclear

The World Wants New Nuclear, adapted from Figure 10

*Right parties include the U.S. republican party, the European Conservative and Reformists Party, and other national right leaning political groups.
Left parties include the Confederal Group of the European United Left, the Socialists and Democrats Party, Democrat parties, and Communist Parties.
Independent parties include those classified as “independent” by individual countries, the Renew Europe party, and the Green parties.


5. Nuclear energy technology is complicated, but messaging shouldn’t be.

Advanced nuclear support increases with education, but in order for public support to increase, information surrounding advanced nuclear must be presented in a way that is accessible and understandable.

When the nuclear industry uses less jargon, people’s acceptance of new nuclear innovations improve. Although nuclear energy technology sounds complicated, the terms used publicly to discuss it do not have to be. Instead, people prefer relatable names for advanced nuclear technologies like “New Nuclear” or “Clean Fission.”

World Support for Advanced Nuclear Technology Names

Source: The World Wants New Nuclear, adapted from Figure 20

People trust and want to hear from nuclear experts. These stakeholders should publicly discuss exciting policies, initiatives, and innovative advancements to gain the public’s support.

Preferred Messengers (% Selected)

Source: The World Wants New Nuclear, adapted from Figure 22

Conscious branding of nuclear energy with non-technical terms such as “new nuclear” is essential, especially as Congress enacts more pro-nuclear energy policies. Recent nuclear energy policies include the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act and the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act, which were both enacted in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020. On top of that, more recently introduced legislation, like the International Nuclear Energy ActNuclear Fuel Security Act and the ADVANCE Act, are going to require industry backing from the preferred messengers to maintain high levels of public support – levels over the 76% of the United States, which is already willing to support nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy policy advocates must connect to benefits in energy independence, clean innovation, climate goals, and economic growth to continue to increase the favorability of new nuclear for the whole of the American public.


A majority of the world is already on board with nuclear, but continued support is never guaranteed.

Experts from environmental organizations, the nuclear industry, and research institutions must explain the advantages of new nuclear to expand this support. Potential Energy’s report is a tool for predicting how the broader public will respond to nuclear energy policy and industry advancements: positively.

As new nuclear energy already has broad support not only within the U.S., but internationally, policymakers can employ this approval to help progress nuclear policies which enhance the U.S.’ position as a leader in clean energy.

The world wants new nuclear, the United States can help provide it.

Securing Domestic Nuclear Fuel Critical for U.S. Clean Energy

The first step in establishing American clean energy leadership abroad is building a secure nuclear fuel supply chain at home. Realizing the true value of nuclear power in ensuring energy security and electricity reliability must start with understanding the supply risk of nuclear fuel on the global stage.

This year, the Department of Energy (DOE) took a positive step adding uranium, the material used to generate nuclear energy, to its Critical Material Assessment. Uranium scored 4 out of 4 on its importance to energy -- which makes sense given nuclear energy is producing 20% of U.S. electricity. Uranium was recognized this year because of nuclear energy’s massive potential to balance variable renewable energy on the grid and provide clean heat to the industrial sector, a sector that accounts for 24% of the emissions in the U.S.

"Nuclear energy is believed to continue to play an important role in the future for carbon-free
energy generation although with higher uncertainties compared to other power sources."
- DOE, 2023 Critical Material Assessment

Unfortunately, compared to the 4 out of 4 score for its importance to energy, the DOE only rates the overall risk of supply chain disruption of uranium at a 2 out of 4. This low score does not align with the industry’s current state. There are a few reasons the DOE may have underestimated the potential for supply chain disruption. First, the political, regulatory, and social factors (PRS) metric relies on 2021 data which was released prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Secondly, the assessment takes a global view of material demand and does not necessarily reflect how important certain materials are to the U.S. energy sector or economy. From the report’s data and assumptions, the DOE has underestimated the potential of a uranium supply disruption from the American perspective.

Source: Department of Energy, 2023 Critical Material Assessment

Transforming uranium ore into nuclear fuel requires a number of steps. In order to make nuclear fuel, the uranium must be mined, milled, converted to a gas, isotopically enriched, deconverted to a powder, and then fabricated into fuel pellets. Enrichment is a necessary step that increases the concentration of usable energy in nuclear fuel so it is compatible with U.S. reactors. However, in 2022, U.S. nuclear plants purchased almost 75% of our enrichment services from other countries, and more than 20% of total enrichment services were provided by Russia. In fact, the report’s limited post-Ukraine invasion data likely undervalues the severity of the supply chain bottleneck in Russia.

In addition to the supply constraints of LEU, the U.S. has no commercial capacity to produce a higher-enriched fuel called high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which requires new infrastructure and additional domestic LEU production as feedstock. HALEU-enriched fuel is necessary for several advanced test and demonstration reactors coming online in the next decade. These advanced reactors must be proven domestically before they are exported and sold to compete against Russia and China in the international nuclear energy market. American leadership, innovative technologies, and strong safety and security standards are the comparative advantages that the U.S. wields against our adversaries.

New nuclear energy is coming online globally, but the United States must do more to lead. Since 2000, Russia and China collectively brought 64 new nuclear reactors online. Only six U.S.-designed reactors were built during that same time. Most recently, Plant Vogtle, in Georgia, announced its newest reactor, which can power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses, entered commercial operation on July 31st, 2023. Due to the success of that project, it’s clear that America is ready to deploy new nuclear power. Now the U.S. needs to secure its place in the global nuclear industry and capitalize on Georgia’s accomplishment.

New and Forthcoming Reactors Worldwide

Map built using information from – American Nuclear Society “25th Annual NuclearNews Reference Section” Nuclear News: The International Issue, March 2023.

There are a number of barriers in need of targeted policy and efficient federal execution, but a major hurdle in building and deploying new nuclear energy is nuclear fuel insecurity. That is why DOE’s recent rating of 2 for uranium security is confusing.

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly agrees with the importance of strengthening America’s domestic LEU production capacity to support our existing reactors and creating a HALEU production capacity to support advanced reactors. On July 27th, the Senate voted 96-3 in favor of including legislation that improves American nuclear energy security into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the Senate later that same day. The House-passed version of the NDAA was largely limited to Department of Defense-centric policies, so it is likely these policies will garner great attention when the House and Senate work to reconcile their bills.

The U.S. must establish a nuclear fuel supply chain at home in order to secure domestic nuclear energy production and power the next-generation nuclear fleet, leading to the export of U.S. technologies. America must provide an exportable, dispatchable, dependable alternative to Russian and Chinese nuclear reactors. Building a secure nuclear fuel supply chain at home starts with realizing the risk, and working on policy to minimize that risk. The inclusion of the nuclear fuel provision in the Senate defense bill and the DOE’s designation of uranium as a near-critical material are putting the U.S. on a stronger path towards international leadership and energy security.

Gloomy Energy Diplomacy Paints Need for Bright American Leadership

Monsoon rains lashed a hazy coastline as energy ministers gathered in Goa, India, for the G20 Energy Transitions Ministers’ Meeting last month for the latest rounds of deliberations, quarrels, and announcements about the world’s clean energy and climate future. Modest progress was made among the parties to acknowledge and advance the role of critical technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS); however, other conversations predictably broke down casting a gloomy picture for global clean energy deployment.

Russia and Saudi Arabia shoved back an agreement to triple renewable generation capacity by 2030, and China blocked cooperation on critical raw materials. Officials failed to agree on language criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that threw energy markets and supply chains into turmoil. Ultimately, the negotiations closed without an agreed joint communique ahead of the G-20 leaders meeting next month, instead settling for a non-binding “outcome document and chair summary.”

As intermittent blackouts shut out the lights in my hotel room in Goa, the plodding diplomatic progress of the G-20 ministers’ meeting stood in stark contrast to the immediate opportunities that exist to deliver energy security for the U.S., India, and other like-minded countries and address the global climate challenge.

Alongside the G-20 discussions, the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation (CEM/MI) held its annual meeting. The CEM/MI is the only regular gathering of energy ministers focused exclusively on clean energy, with the hosting of the Ministerial meetings changing every year among the CEM/MI member governments. These conversations helped bring perspective to rapidly developing nations like India where energy security and reliability are equally imperative to deploying more clean energy. For the early part of this century, the country has exuded optimism and expectation for a brighter future, and it is remarkable to see the growing vibrancy of India’s clean energy policy ecosystem. However, on this trip I also heard true anxiety from friends in India – young urbanites in comfortable jobs, not subsistence farmers – about their future ability to live in the country with increasingly harsh weather conditions. Unfortunately, these worsening conditions and this growing anxiety are not unique to India.

That is why pragmatic American leadership with international partners – like India – is needed at multilateral energy and climate forums like CEM/MI to drive forward better understanding of next-generation technologies. It was very encouraging to see the prominent and deeply technical debates about CCUS technology happen in Goa. A decade ago, this was not the case with many in India and other countries outright dismissing the technology. Hydrogen was another hot topic of promising debate with thoughtful conversations about the pros and cons of green hydrogen versus – pick your color hydrogen – and the crux of ultimately figuring out how demand can meet supply.

Yet, there were notable gaps in the discussions at CEM/MI. The important role of advanced civil nuclear power in the global energy mix was mostly relegated to the far corners of conversation among us subversives who already believe in the technology’s game-changing potential for clean baseload generation. Likewise, there was surprisingly little talk about geothermal energy, hydroelectricity, and long-duration energy storage as essential pieces of the power puzzle. These areas and more should be elevated by U.S. delegates at the next CEM/MI gathering next year in Brazil.

Finally, there’s always the question of financing, with developing countries seeking solutions from developed countries. How can governments and the private sector better partner to design bankable clean energy projects at scale? The U.S. leverages agencies like the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Export-Import Bank (EXIM), and the U.S.-Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to provide tools and lending options to bridge the financing gap in developing countries. But financing is not a silver bullet. In India, for example, the balance sheets of most of the public sector electricity distribution companies are not in good shape and inhibit the amount of clean energy that can be brought to the grid. The U.S. can only do so much to help partners and allies, and sometimes they need to make hard decisions to help themselves so that we can solve shared challenges together.

With every challenge comes opportunity, but you have to see it to seize it. Gatherings like CEM/MI are where problem solvers can exchange learnings and viewpoints to discover opportunities faster than they would on their own, and work toward achieving the international clean energy advancements we need.