Thank you to “We Don’t Have Time” and other partners for inviting me to open your Energy Day segment at COP27. While I cannot join you in person, I assure you that I am with you in spirit.
We all agree that global actions to address the climate crisis are overdue, and we are running a race against time to secure our future. Now is, indeed, the time to act. And I really do like the phrase, “we don’t have time.”
As someone who has spent most of my life finding ways for nations to come together through diplomatic engagement and finding solutions to address the existential threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, I believe that we can find common solutions to address the crisis, and I firmly believe that the responsible use of nuclear energy is one key tool in achieving global climate issues.
The Biden-Harris Administration shares this belief and we have been working hard every day to cooperate with like-minded partners on the responsible use of civil nuclear power.
So, what does that mean? You may have heard U.S. leaders at Sharm-el-Sheikh talk about “Implementation Plus.”
Implementation Plus means all countries delivering on existing commitments, strengthening commitments that are not sufficient to meet climate goals, and working to create new and more aggressive commitments to combat climate change.
We aim to lead the world to do all we can to keep the promise of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.
To achieve this, President Biden has charged every part of the U.S. government – to include national security experts – with advancing climate action, and I am happy to be part of that effort. As Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, I am supporting this effort by promoting the responsible use of nuclear technology as a tool for mass decarbonization.
Nuclear energy is a critical climate solution. We must accelerate the energy transition by moving away from fossil fuels and rapidly deploying zero-carbon technologies. Advanced nuclear energy technologies can and must be part of the solution.
But first and foremost, nuclear solutions must be done right. I am proud that when the United States works with our partners on the peaceful and responsible use of nuclear energy, we do it right. That means we insist on every project in every country uphold the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation. We continue to work with like-minded partners to advance these fundamental principles.
Since President Biden made the initial announcement at the Leaders Summit on Climate last year, we have supported fifteen countries – in coordination with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry – through our Department of State program, the Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology – or FIRST – Initiative that we have initially launched. By responsibly advancing the use of nuclear energy, FIRST is there to help our partners “do nuclear right.”
FIRST builds on more than 60 years of U.S. innovation and expertise in nuclear energy and provides capacity-building support to partner countries exploring options to meet their clean energy needs in a manner consistent with the highest international standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.
Unfortunately, other countries do not uphold these principles. Russia’s illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its willingness to weaponize energy demonstrate that Russia is not a reliable energy supplier. In June, the G7 highlighted this point in the Leaders Joint statement, saying “We will further reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia, including working to assist countries seeking to diversify their supplies.”
For many countries, nuclear energy may be the right solution at the right time – not only to address climate change, but also to help them meet their economic development and energy security goals. Further, nuclear energy can play a critical role in decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors beyond electricity. For example, nuclear energy offers a cost-competitive, zero-carbon production source for clean hydrogen, industrial process heat, and desalinated water to meet decarbonization goals, air quality standards, and clean water needs.
I am particularly excited by the promise of small modular nuclear reactors – also called “SMRs” – for energy generation. SMRs are one essential new technology that will allow for clean energy generation and are particularly well suited for replacing coal plants.
SMRs offer lower costs, more scalability and flexibility, and the ability to complement other clean energy sources. They are, as their name suggests, smaller than traditional reactors, and can be deployed to match the specific needs of a country’s power grid. In some designs, additional units can be added over time if energy demand and transmission capacity grow. Investing in SMRs creates good paying jobs in host countries and offers the ability to scale-up quickly as demand dictates.
This technology is already being deployed in the U.S. at multiple sites that will come online before the end of this decade. We are positive about this progress. We are excited to see Romania partnering with us to deploy the first SMR in Europe using technology from the U.S. company NuScale as early as 2028 or 2029.
At COP26, I announced the Nuclear Futures Package, a $25 million down payment on creating nuclear energy solutions around the world.
The United States is still committed to building a nuclear future.
To start, the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden is the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history. This legislation puts the United States on track to achieve President Biden’s ambitious target to cut U.S. emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 and demonstrates that the United States will deliver on its climate commitments for years to come.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes significant resources to keep domestic low-carbon nuclear power plants operating safely, and support investment in the newest, safest, most advanced nuclear plants, like SMRs in the United States.
With our like-minded partners we are advancing nuclear power solutions not just at home but around the world.
Here are just a few examples, starting with Romania which I have just mentioned. On top of partnering on SMRs, we have also delivered on our COP26 commitment to provide new support for Romania’s nuclear program, including $14 million for a Front End Engineering and Design study, also known as FEED. And this month at COP27, our U.S. banks formally shared their interests to our Romanian partners on providing over $2.6 billion in loans to support Romania’s plans to complete work on two more large reactors at their existing nuclear power plant.
With Poland, we delivered on our commitment to help them complete the front-end engineering and design process – again, known as FEED – to pre-plan the development of six nuclear energy reactors. FEED work for their first nuclear power plant, and I am pleased that the Government of Poland announced a few weeks ago their selection of the U.S. company Westinghouse as technology partner to deliver the first three reactors.
We also recently announced that we are moving forward with Ukraine on a pilot project to use nuclear power plants to generate clean hydrogen and ammonia – a critical fuel and a critical fertilizer – to enhance energy and food security.
At the same time, we announced $8 million worth of new support to European countries to conduct feasibility studies to transition dirty, coal-fired power plants to clean, nuclear power using SMRs.
But our commitment to helping partners extends far beyond the European continent. Since Glasgow, President Biden has engaged steadily with leaders around the world to further strengthen climate action – including through the G7, the Quad, the Summit of the Americas, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity.
The United States is focused on making this COP responsive to the priorities and needs of the African continent and on the needs of vulnerable developing countries and communities everywhere. That is why I am particularly proud of the announcement I made a few weeks ago at the IAEA Nuclear Power Ministerial on our partnership with Japan to work with Ghana to help our Ghanaian friends achieve their nuclear power objectives with support for feasibility studies and human capital development. Through this cooperation, Ghana can further its climate commitments, meet its energy security goals, and establish its clean tech leadership in the region.
This trilateral cooperation is a new model for supporting the potential future deployment of small modular reactor technology around the world. Support under this initiative can include prerequisite technical and regulatory assistance and feasibility studies for those countries to pursue innovative nuclear technologies that increase access to clean, reliable energy and support climate objectives.
We are hoping to make further announcements of similar projects in other parts of the world in the coming days and weeks.
In conclusion, I am proud that the United States is delivering on its commitments to fundamentally decarbonize not just at home but around the world.
We believe that the clean energy transition will require deploying, at massive scale, the full range of clean energy technologies available, including nuclear energy, over the next decade and beyond.
The United States stands ready to provide support and partnership to those countries around the world that have prioritized nuclear in their clean energy and climate plans to address the global climate crisis and bolster energy security.
Now is the time to act.