The Office of Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation (INEPC) works with international partners on civil nuclear cooperation, ranging from advanced fuel cycle countries such as France, Russia and Japan, to those nations considering the development of nuclear energy for the first time NE-6 looks to leverage resources to maximize progress both domestically and globally. There are several categories of activity for our civil nuclear cooperation: bilateral technical collaboration arrangements, including technical action plans or MOUs, the International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (INERI), and the International Cooperation (INC) framework.
Bilateral Technical Collaboration
Action plans allow the United States and its partner countries to undertake R&D more efficiently by collaborating in key facilities and technologies unique to each party. INEPC has facilitated and supported negotiation of action plans with China, India, Japan, and Russia and is developing an action plan for its collaboration with France.
The U.S.–China Bilateral Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperative Action Plan represents a programmatic commitment to pursue joint studies of advanced nuclear technologies. Under the action plan, there are six technical working groups: Fast Reactor Technologies, Advanced Separations Technologies, Advanced Fuels and Materials Development, Nuclear Safety Enhancement, Spent Fuel Storage and Repository Science, and High Temperature Gas Reactor Technologies.
There is also a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DOE and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on Cooperation in Nuclear Energy Sciences and Technologies (NEST). The DOE-CAS MOU seeks to enhance and foster common interests in nuclear energy collaboration among U.S. and Chinese scientists, laboratories, research institutes, and universities. Current areas of the NEST MOU cooperation include molten salt coolant systems, nuclear fuel resources (extraction of uranium from seawater), and nuclear hybrid energy systems.
In addition, NE leads the Nuclear Energy Technology Working Group under the NNSA-led Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology Agreement with China, focusing mainly on nuclear safety. Collaborative activities under these U.S.–China cooperative mechanism may include exchange of technical information, research results and experiences; exchange of personnel for visits and assignments; exchange of equipment, materials and instrumentation; and joint training, seminars, conferences, and workshops.
I-NERI Annual Reports
INEPC also leads the coordination of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group (CNEWG). Through the CNEWG, our two countries have been working to develop a scope for nuclear energy R&D cooperation, building upon the U.S.-India 123 Agreement, which went into effect in October 2008. A U.S.-India Action Plan under the CNEWG was signed in Mumbai in February 2010. The most recent meeting of the CNEWG was held in July 2013 in Mumbai, where participants exchanged briefings on the status of their civil nuclear programs and respective post-Fukushima actions and agreed on detailed work plans for technical cooperation. The areas of cooperation include: advanced austenitics for light water reactor applications; constitutive modeling of austenitic and nickel-based alloys; characterization of reactor components; high-temperature reactors; effects of low-level radiation; and doctoral/post-doctoral student exchanges.
In July 2012, the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation endorsed the creation of a new Civil Nuclear Energy R&D Working Group (CNWG) to enhance coordination of joint civil nuclear R&D efforts between the United States and Japan, building upon the collaborative R&D objectives of the U.S.–Japan Joint Nuclear Energy Action Plan (JNEAP), created in 2007. The CNWG is now coordinating cooperative nuclear energy R&D in several of the topical areas previously supported under the JNEAP, including advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies, as well as a number of new areas endorsed by the Bilateral Commission, such as existing reactor fleet sustainability.
The U.S.–Russia Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Action Plan Working Sub-Group is co-chaired by the DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy and the Rosatom Deputy Director General. The sub-group is part of the NENS Working Group within the U.S.–Russia Binational Presidential Commission. The long-term objectives of the CNE Action Plan are to leverage the scientific and engineering resources of our respective countries to advance the growth of clean, safe, secure, and affordable nuclear energy through the development of innovative nuclear energy technologies. The four key elements of collaboration are: Reactor Demonstration Projects; R&D for Innovative Nuclear Energy Technology Options; Modeling, Simulation and Safety; and Development of a Global Civil Nuclear Framework.
DOE and France's Commissariat à l’ Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) signed a bilateral Action Plan for nuclear R&D collaboration in October 2013. Collaboration is conducted under four working groups on Next-Generation Reactors, Separations and Waste Forms, Advanced Fuels and Materials, and Advanced Modeling and Simulation. The Action Plan Steering Committee held its first meeting on May 14, 2014, where it reviewed progress made in each area and work plans for the coming year.
NE also is engaged in various collaborative efforts through MOUs and Energy Partnerships with Argentina, Brazil, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Jordan, Mongolia, Egypt and the Republic of Korea.
International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (I-NERI)
I-NERI was established by the Office of Nuclear Energy in 2001 to conduct research and development with international partners in key facilities in advanced nuclear energy systems development. I-NERI supports scientific and engineering R&D linked to NE’s principal research programs. Current I-NERI collaborators include the Republic of Korea, the European Union, and Canada.
These collaborations allow the United States to engage the international community in bilateral cost-shared R&D that enhances the Department’s ability to leverage its limited research funding with nuclear technology funding from other countries. At the same time, it provides the United States greater credibility and influence in international activities associated with the application of nuclear technologies. The program addresses key issues affecting the future use of nuclear energy and its global deployment by improving future nuclear energy systems in terms of cost performance, safety, proliferation resistance, and waste management. Cooperation may include information and data exchange; personnel exchange; exchange and provision of test samples, materials, and equipment; joint studies, projects or experiments; meetings to facilitate information exchange for ongoing bilateral projects; and meetings to identify additional cooperative actions.
International Nuclear Cooperation (INC)
The INC framework, formerly the International Nuclear Safety Program (INSP), is a cooperative effort with countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to reduce risks at Soviet-designed nuclear power plants. Countries of current focus include Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. INC has successfully introduced modern safety practices and technology into Ukraine’s operating reactors, supported shutdown of the BN-350 fast reactor in Kazakhstan and upgraded safety at a Soviet-era reactor in Armenia. In addition, as part of its Ukrainian Nuclear Fuel Qualification Project (UNFQP), INC is supporting the testing necessary for Westinghouse to provide nuclear fuel for Russian VVER 1000 reactors operating in Ukraine.