In the latest example of the Trump administration’s recent efforts to forge nuclear agreements with Central and Eastern European nations (for other examples, see here, here, and here), the United States earlier this week signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU) with Slovenia.
The NCMOU was signed on December 8 during a visit to Washington, D.C., by a Slovenian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Anže Logar. Signing it were Christopher Ford, the administration’s assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and Jernej Vrtovec, Slovenia’s minister of infrastructure.
The previous day, Logar met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss, among other topics, “the importance of energy security and how civil nuclear cooperation can strengthen the strategic bilateral relationship,” according to a State Department readout.
Understanding the memos: The State Department describes NCMOUs as diplomatic instruments that strengthen and expand U.S. strategic ties with other countries by providing a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and for engagement between experts from government, industry, national laboratories, and academic institutions. The department also says that NCMOUs can help partner countries prepare to take advantage of the advanced nuclear technologies and coming innovations in reactor design that are being pioneered in the United States.
Background: The United States and Slovenia can trace their civil nuclear energy partnership back to 1975, when construction began on the Krško nuclear power plant, located in eastern Slovenia, near the border with Croatia. The country’s only nuclear power facility, Krško was built as a joint venture of Slovenia and Croatia, both of which were at the time part of the former Yugoslavia. The plant houses one 696-MWe two-loop pressurized water reactor, supplied by Westinghouse. Commercial operation began in January 1983.
Operated by Nuklearna Elektrarna Krško, the plant is co-owned by two state-owned companies, Slovenia’s GEN Energija and Croatia’s Hrvatska Elektroprivreda. Both governments are reportedly working on extending Krško’s operation by 20 years, from 2023 (its original retirement date) to 2043. In addition, there have been talks regarding the construction of a second unit at the site.