Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Could Help Meet Energy Needs

Washington - President Bush's proposal to make nuclear fuel accessible to all governments that forego uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing could meet the world’s growing energy demands, limit carbon emissions and reduce proliferation dangers, according to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

Addressing a general session of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, Bodman quoted the president saying that the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership could "ensure that cheap, safe, and clean nuclear energy and its benefits are enjoyed by all who are in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations."  (See related article.)

The secretary said world energy needs are met today primarily by using coal, natural gas and oil to generate electrical power. "But nuclear energy provides a host of benefits fossil fuels cannot match," Bodman said.

The secretary said four conditions must be present to achieve the maximum benefit from nuclear power:

• Nuclear power must be competitive with fossil fuels in generating electricity;

• Nuclear waste and spent fuel must be disposed of responsibly;

• Nuclear power must be safe; and   

• The firmest safeguards over nuclear materials must be maintained.

Regarding disposal, he said the U.S. Energy Department wants to open a mountain repository for nuclear waste and spent fuel by 2017, and praised the progress Sweden and Finland are making in pursuing geologic repositories.

Bodman said the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, along with a Russian proposal to establish international nuclear fuel service centers (starting with one in Russia) "share the same goal: to facilitate the global expansion of nuclear power to meet growing energy demands, limit carbon emissions, and reduce proliferation dangers."

The U.S. proposal through GNEP is "to develop and deploy advanced technologies for recycling spent nuclear fuel that do not result in separated plutonium," Bodman said.  The goal is a multilateral effort to develop advanced, proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors suited to the energy needs of developing economies.

Though different proposals have been made for the future of nuclear power, he said, there is consensus that an international mechanism to assure an adequate supply of reactor fuel is critical both to meeting the world's energy needs and to advancing nonproliferation goals.

Bodman said the United States plans to work with the IAEA and any others willing to construct a framework to guarantee fuel at fair market rates, and to accommodate the storage, transport and processing of spent fuel.

He called for the IAEA, with U.S. help, to facilitate supplier-recipient contacts, promote the use of technological advances and help countries develop the expertise needed for effective use of nuclear energy.

An assured fuel supply "would considerably increase the energy independence, and thus political and strategic independence, of all nations, particularly smaller ones," Bodman said.

The full text of Bodman’s prepared remarks is available on the Energy Department Web site, as is additional information on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

For more on U.S. nonproliferation efforts, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.