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Opening of the GNEP Ministerial Meeting

May 21, 2007 - 12:55pm


Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Good morning.  Let me begin by formally welcoming you to Washington.

I hope today's meeting will be the first in a series laying the groundwork for a new global nuclear power partnership an international approach that allows developed and developing nations alike to share in its benefits securely and peacefully.

The projected increase in the global demand for energy the growing consensus that all nations must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the political instability present in much of the world's oil producing regions have combined to create a near-perfect storm.

To ride it out successfully we must pursue balanced, environmentally sensitive energy portfolios that can be useful for developed and developing nations alike in support of economic growth and our nonproliferation objectives.

Whatever approach we take, it is clear nuclear power must play a major role. It is the only energy source yet developed that can produce power in quantities sufficient to meet projected needs without producing carbon emissions harmful to the planet.  The coming realities require that we plan for a greater reliance on nuclear power around the globe.

But the benefits of nuclear power must, as we all well know, be themselves balanced against the potential proliferation risks associated with nuclear technology.

The United States believes a globally integrated approach is vital to the successful expansion of nuclear power around the world.  This is why President Bush proposed the formation of a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, as the embodiment of the globally integrated, fully comprehensive approach to nuclear power planning.

GNEP looks at the entire nuclear energy enterprise - from the development of advanced fuel reactor technologies on the front end to the disposition and management of spent nuclear fuel on the back end.  It takes into account the need to establish reliable fuel services and the need to support the infrastructure requirements of countries considering nuclear power as a future part of their energy portfolios.

GNEP addresses international concerns about proliferation forthrightly in ways that build on existing international agreements.

GNEP is a major research and technology development initiative; it is also a major international partnership - one where listening and learning are essential to its success.  It focuses on finding ways to overcome the barriers to nuclear power's full development, including the problems of waste and proliferation.

GNEP is a forum for the advanced nuclear nations to work together to bring the benefits of nuclear power to the rest of the world -- safely, securely and peacefully.

Here are a few of what I see as the goals ahead. they are significant but I believe that, together, we can achieve them because of the diversity of our technological strengths.

We must develop & deploy advanced recycling technologies that do not separate pure plutonium. We must work to eliminate excess stocks of plutonium & safely manage existing inventories of civilian spent fuel.

When available, these advanced technologies would substantially reduce nuclear waste, simplifying its disposition.  We must also advance proliferation-resistant reactor and safeguards technologies.

I believe the problem of waste management also needs a collective solution.  There is promising work already underway in each of our countries that we can draw on in pursuit of our objective: to develop and deploy advanced reactors that consume transuranic elements from recycled spent fuel, thus reducing the volume of waste for disposition.

Benefits can also found in the removal and recycling of long-lived minor actinides and removing some fission products that can decay separately.

We must also consider the matter of comprehensive fuel services.  If we can provide them it will increase confidence in the marketplace, thereby allowing developing countries to avoid the need for costly home-grown programs and help prevent proliferation.

GNEP fuel cycle technology should establish and sustain cradle to grave fuel services or leasing arrangements at a scale commensurate with the anticipated expansion of nuclear energy and help to solve the nuclear waste challenge.

GNEP promotes responsible stewardship.  As partners we can provide assistance to developing nations for security, safety and regulatory infrastructure, liability framework and workforce training.

We can help them meet nonproliferation objectives but we also need to explore creative methods for financing nuclear power.

Developing countries with smaller electrical grids will require more economical small and medium-size reactors possessing safe and secure proliferation resistant designs.

The support of the IAEA is critical.  Their expertise will assist in the design of new technologies, facilities and processes.  The Agency already plays an important role in assisting developing nations interested in civilian nuclear power programs.

An important objective for our meeting today will be to lay out the next steps of the partnership.  Many countries have expressed interest in joining GNEP, and we need to discuss how to achieve the major objectives and work with new countries.

This is an enormous undertaking, but one that will allow us to work more closely toward common goals.  I appreciate your taking time from your busy schedules to be here today to devote your experience to this challenge.  Thank you.

Location: Park Hyatt Hotel - Washington, D.C.

Media contact(s): Julie Ruggiero, (202) 586-4940