DOE 'restructuring' fuel-cycle approach, ambassador says

27 April 2009

In a speech at the IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in Beijing on April 20, US embassador to China Gregory Schulte acknowledged that US domestic programmes for GNEP, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, have been cancelled.

"Looking towards the future, our Department of Energy is currently restructuring its fuel cycle activities, which were previously focused on the near-term deployment of recycling processes and advanced reactor designs, into a long-term, science-based, research and development program focused on the technical challenges associated with managing the back end of the fuel cycle. These challenges will be thoroughly vetted and resolved as we explore long-term solutions for management and disposition of our spent nuclear fuel."

Schulte also said that the USA has launched a new nonproliferation initiative. "The United States has launched a program to build next generation safeguards technologies and a new community of safeguards experts; to assist full use of IAEA inspection authorities; and to foster a culture of safeguards, security and safety in nations using nuclear energy." He also supported the IAEA fuel bank initiative.

He also put the USA's support behind the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, or the CSC. "International cooperation will be greatly facilitated by a global nuclear liability regime," he said. "The United States believes that the CSC is essential to assuring the greatest possible cooperation and taking full advantage of the benefits of nuclear energy. The United States has ratified the CSC and urges other countries to also take this necessary action to establish a key component of a sound nuclear energy infrastructure."

The cancellation of US funding for some programmes of GNEP does not signal the demise of GNEP, or the US's support for its work. Schulte mentioned that there are two international working groups in GNEP. The first addresses infrastructure development and seeks to help states begin implementing the guidance conveyed in the IAEA Milestones document. The second working group addresses reliable nuclear fuel services as a viable alternative to the acquisition of sensitive fuel cycle technologies. The US government's own Ed McGinnis is the chair of the GNEP parnters and observers steering group.


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