UK joins Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

26 February 2008

The UK has become the 21st member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), after business and enterprise minister John Hutton accepted an invitation to sign the scheme's Statement of Principles.

The UK's move from an observer to an active participant in GNEP was expected to come sometime this year but surprised observers in coming just weeks after the country announced a new pro-nuclear policy. It was on 10 January that Hutton announced to the country that nuclear power was vital to Britain, and invited private enterprise to build nuclear power plants to help fill an energy gap that grows to 30-35 GWe by around 2020.


Hutton said: "With a new generation of nuclear energy now set to be part of the UK’s future energy mix, the UK is in position to play a role in this global initiative." John McNamara of the UK's Nuclear Industry Association expressed his organization's support for Hutton's move, adding: "The UK was the first country to develop a civil nuclear generating industry and it is right that the UK supports this important international partnership at a time of worldwide renaissance in nuclear."


A government announcement said Hutton would also meet 'US energy companies to discuss potential investment in new nuclear build in the UK' while in Washington. Until now only European utilities had been in the spotlight for significant investment.

Signing the document in Washington DC, Hutton said: "The UK shares in the vision of improved non-proliferation and nuclear waste management and recognises the real benefits of initiatives such as GNEP to implement the right solutions and further develop international standards and best practice." On the US side, energy secretary Sam Bodman said, "As a long-standing global leader in the field of nuclear energy, the United Kingdom brings to GNEP expertise and knowledge that we can all benefit from."

The UK had been a notable absentee from GNEP ranks, and Bodman said the country's addition brought "great momentum to GNEP". Now the UK has joined, the partnership includes all the countries that pioneered nuclear power in the 1950s, all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, all the major uranium exporters and - with the exception of India - all the countries with reprocessing facilities.


Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative was launched by US President George Bush in January 2006. 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, plutonium and some actinides contained within could be recycled in advanced nuclear power reactors. It is the first time that a number of countries around the world have collaborated to spread the use of nuclear power.
Waste volumes would be greatly reduced by this process, and nuclear materials would never be outside the strictest controls, overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
GNEP members (signatories of the Statement of Principles) include: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Ghana, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Korea, the UK, Ukraine, the USA.