Some 38 countries attended a top-level meeting on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) in Vienna, Austria. Sixteen of them are now full members of the initiative.
The second ministerial meeting of GNEP was timed to occur immediately before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA's) General Conference, which began today. It was an opportunity for more countries to sign and expand the GNEP Statement of Principles, and Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Ukraine did so, taking membership to 16 countries.
China, France, Japan and Russia became members at the first ministerial meeting in May and the final member is the USA, from where the project originated.
Canada and the UK have participated as observers.
President George Bush announced GNEP as part of the USA's Advanced Energy Initiative in 2006. The idea addresses some of the key issues that have limited nuclear power's use worldwide: Availability of radioactive waste disposal systems; Concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons-usable technology; And the high level of industrial development necessary to begin a nuclear power program.
Under GNEP, so-called 'fuel-cycle' nations would provide assured supplies of nuclear fuel to client nations, which would generate electricity before returning the used fuel. It would then undergo advanced reprocessing so that uranium and plutonium it contained could be recycled in advanced nuclear power reactors. Waste volumes would be greatly reduced by this process, and nuclear materials would never be outside the strictest controls, overseen by the IAEA.
US energy secretary Sam Bodman said that GNEP was not an "exclusive club," but an "equal and voluntary partnership, open to all nations that share our common vision and who agree to internationally accepted standards for a safe, peaceful and secure nuclear fuel cycle."
The 16 GNEP members agreed to set up a nuclear fuel services working group, to address nuclear fuel leasing and other considerations around comprehensive nuclear fuel supply goals. Another working group, on nuclear infrastructure development, would address the financial, technical and manpower challenges surrounding nuclear power deployment in many countries.
Referring to a transition to a low-carbon economy, Bodman said: "To put it simply, the world needs GNEP. Renewable energy - wind, solar, geothermal and fuels made from biomass - are part of the solution. But, as we have already learned in the USA, they are not sufficient to meet the challenge."
Global Nuclear Energy Partnership website
WNA's Cooperation in the Nuclear Power Industry information paper
WNN: International support for nuclear energy cooperation