Monday, September 17, 2007

Global Nuclear Partnership Triples in Size To 16

Sep 16: At a meeting in Vienna, Austria, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and senior international officials from 16 nations agreed to increase international nuclear energy cooperation through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). China, France, Japan, Russia and the United States, who are original GNEP partners, as well as Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine signed a “Statement of Principles”, which addresses the prospects of expanding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including enhanced safeguards, international fuel service frameworks, and advanced technologies. Bodman said, “Through GNEP, we are joining governments of the east and west, north and south in pursuit of a common goal: the safe, global expansion of nuclear power. Today’s Ministerial sets our nations on a path to address issues of nuclear fuel services and infrastructure development and work to share the benefits of nuclear power worldwide.”

The second GNEP Ministerial held in Vienna, ahead of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference this week and was attended by 38 nations and three international organizations. Senior international energy officials participated in sessions focused on reliable fuel services and infrastructure, which are considered integral to GNEP’s development. In order to address all aspects of fuel services, officials agreed to form a Nuclear Fuel Services Working Group under GNEP, which will focus on practical measures and benefits for comprehensive fuel services, such as fuel leasing and other arrangements for spent fuel management. Officials also discussed steps to provide guidance or technical assistance for assessing countries’ infrastructure needs, while consulting with the IAEA. Officials agreed to form a Nuclear Infrastructure Development Working Group under GNEP to address the challenges that nuclear power poses in the financial, technical and human resources of many countries.

GNEP, first announced by President Bush in 2006, is part of his Advanced Energy Initiative, which aims to utilize alternative and renewable fuels to increase energy, economic and international security. GNEP seeks to develop worldwide consensus on enabling expanded use of "clean, safe, and affordable nuclear energy" to meet growing electricity demand. GNEP proposes a nuclear fuel cycle that enhances energy security, while promoting non-proliferation.

Despite DOE's announced expansion of the program, as previously reported, the Keystone Center released a report in June this year showing areas of agreement from a diverse group of stakeholders on the risks and benefits of nuclear power. Among other items the conclusions from 27 participants associated with the nuclear industry, environmental groups, consumer advocates, government regulators, consultants, and academics indicated that, "critical elements of the program [GNEP] are unlikely to succeed." [
See WIMS 6/18/07].

The Keystone report outlined many problems with the GNEP including, "The proposal to build a fast reactor that can consume or destroy both plutonium and higher actinides represents a revival of a technology option that has been repeatedly rejected by U.S. policymakers. Developing fuel for such a reactor is but one of the technologically problematic aspects of GNEP. The other is the incompatibility between the commitment of civilian nuclear plant operators to move ahead with standardized reactor design of proven technology and the federal government’s intent to commit to fast reactor designs that are unlikely ever to be adopted by industry."

Access a release from DOE with links to the GNEP List of Countries 9-16-2007, GNEP Operating Documents, the Signed Statement of Principles and the GNEP website (
click here). Access the 108-page Keystone final report (click here). [*Energy, Haz/Nuclear]