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United States Proposes Global Plan To Encourage Nuclear Energy

Feb 9, 2006 - STATE DEPARTMENT RELEASE/ContentWorks

The U.S. Energy Department has proposed a broad global energy partnership to promote nuclear energy as a clean and safe source of electricity and develop advanced nuclear technologies to prevent spent nuclear fuel from being used to produce nuclear weapons.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell announced the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) as part of the President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative at a February 6 media briefing. Sell said a central goal of the partnership would be to develop and demonstrate a process to recycle spent nuclear fuel in a way that does not separate plutonium. Such a process, Sell said, would result in more-stable nuclear waste with lower radiotoxicity than waste currently produced by reactors. The change would greatly reduce concerns about nuclear-weapons proliferation, he said. Spent nuclear fuel containing plutonium could be useable as weapons material, according to Sell.

The GNEP will seek involvement by countries that have invested in nuclear power ' initially the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Japan, and later perhaps, India. The administration's budget request proposes $250 million for GNEP in the fiscal year that begins in October, more than double the amount allocated for similar nuclear-related initiatives the current fiscal year. Sell said GNEP's budget would increase "dramatically" in the next three years.

The deputy secretary outlined other initiatives GNEP will take up, including an international system for nuclear-fuel leasing. He said the idea is to provide "commercially attractive incentives" for a country to buy a reactor, lease nuclear fuel and then send it back for recycling and waste disposal. Such a system would bring the benefits of nuclear power to an economy, yet keep a country from investing in its own fuel cycle, Sell said. He said this too would hinder proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Environmental and energy-supply issues were behind administration support for new nuclear power plants in the United States, Sell said. The administration's budget allocates money to foster the application and licensing of new nuclear power plants, after a 30-year hiatus from such projects. Administration plans could result in a new nuclear power plant in operation by 2014.