Endorsement for nuclear from leading nations

09 June 2008

Energy ministers of leading industrialized countries met in Aomori, Japan at the weekend. Some statements from the group clearly endorsed nuclear power as a way to increase energy security and tackle climate change.


G8 plus China, India, South Korea
The G8 along with China, India and
South Korea accounts for over half
the world's energy consumption
Japanese leaders had promised to ensure nuclear energy received discussion in Hokkaido during this year's meetings of the Group of Eight industrialized nations (the G8; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the USA). Ahead of the main meeting of the G8 Presidents and prime ministers next month, the countries' energy ministers met in Aomori at the weekend for a meeting of their own. Their counterparts from China, India and South Korea joined them, taking part in most of the meeting.


Resulting from the discussions were three joint statements: One from a meeting of just China, India, Japan, South Korea and the USA; one from the G8 energy ministers; and another from the G8 plus China, India and South Korea.


While the G8 statement was short and did not mention nuclear power, most forthright in supporting nuclear energy was the group of China, India, Japan, South Korea and the USA, which said the use of "clean and alternative fuel such as clean coal, nuclear, and renewables" would be necessary to enhance energy security. They said that a diverse mix of generation employing the technologies would reduce reliance on fossil fuels.


Another passage read: "We recognize the important role of renewables and safe and peaceful nuclear energy in increasing energy security by diversifying the energy mix, maintaining economic growth and mitigating climate change." The group would like to end subsidies for preferred technologies and replace them with "better targeted policies for intended beneficiaries."


The statement from the G8 plus China, India and South Korea was markedly more cautious on nuclear. Their joint statement read: "We note that a growing number of countries have expressed interest in nuclear power programs as a means to address climate change and energy security concerns. This is because these countries take the position that nuclear energy can serve as baseload electric power supply, emits no greenhouse gas in the process of power generation, and reduces dependence on fossil-fuels."


Since the announcement of pro-nuclear policies in Italy and the UK, the only country present taking a different position on nuclear power was Germany. A previous coalition government in that country included the Green Party and decided to phase out nuclear power plants early. Under current plans all 17 of Germany's reactors are to close by 2022, while two have already been shut down before the end of their design lives.


Efficiency, carbon capture and renewables


Aside from nuclear power, the ministers spoke to "stress the critical role of carbon capture and storage (CCS)," which in theory could dramatically reduce the greenhous gas emissions from fossil-fuelled power plants. Together, all the ministers present supported a recommendation from the International Energy Agency that 20 large-scale CCS projects be launched by 2010, with a view to deploy CCS broadly by 2020.


Another favoured technique for mitigating climate change was energy efficiency. The G8 plus three decided to establish the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC) to serve as "as a high-level forum for facilitating broad actions that yield high energy efficiency gains, where participating countries see an added value." The countries want to promote sharing of best practices on energy efficiency.


The potential role of renewables was noted by the politicians, but in less positive language. They "recognise that some renewable energy sources have challenges in terms of their economic viability, supply stability and geographic limitation." Nevertheless the ministers promised to promote research, development and demonstration of new and renewable energy technologies while facilitating finance for them.

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