26 May 2007 - 09:21
  • News Code: 105500

Exelon Byron Nuclear Generating Stations in Byron, Illinois. The United States sought to boost nuclear power in the global energy mix Monday, by hosting China, France, Japan and Russia at the first meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

President George W. Bush has pledged 250 million dollars for 2007 to promote nuclear energy as an alternative to carbon-burning electrical plants, which emit so-called greenhouse gases that scientists have blamed for climate change.

But another key goal is controlling distribution of nuclear power technology and materials to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"An important objective for our meeting will be to lay out the next steps of the partnership," US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said as he opened the GNEP meeting.

Along with China, France, Japan and Russia, observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and British government officials sat in on the meeting Monday.

Australia is also understood to be potentially interested in joining the GNEP club.

"Many countries have expressed interest in joining GNEP, and we need to discuss how to achieve the major objectives and work with new countries," said Bodman, a former professor of chemical engineering.

The US advanced the idea behind GNEP in March, during a meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations in Moscow.

The US wants GNEP to organize countries that have secure, advanced nuclear capabilities to provide fuel to other nations who agree to use nuclear energy just for power generation under the aegis of IAEA.

In exchange, the fuel purchasers would renounce plans to enrich and recycle fuel.

France has 58 nuclear reactors providing about 78 percent of the country"s electricity output and has given its support in principle to the American initative.

"France understands the aspirations of states that want to tap the benefits of nuclear energy," said Alain Bugat, the general administrator of the French atomic energy agency (CEA).

"We"re happy that initiatives have been launched in response to such aspirations," he said.

"The implementation of this initiative enhances the cumulative effect of the other initiatives and mechanisms in this field," said Nikolay Spasskiy, a deputy director of Russia"s atomic energy agency.

Russia has launched a separate international program to address nuclear energy issues.

GNEP members agreed to meet again in September on the sidelines of the IAEA general assembly in Vienna.

Bodman called Monday"s meeting a "general discussion" and "productive."

The United States has not built a nuclear energy plant since the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. There are 100 nuclear power plants in operation across America producing about 20 percent of US power.



News Code 105500

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