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Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Moscow Center

March 16, 2006 - 11:53am


Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you . . . I'm pleased to be here. I'd like to thank the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow Center for hosting this event. Here in Moscow - as in Washington and around the world - the Carnegie Endowment has distinguished itself as a relevant player in nearly all policy debates related to international affairs . . . going beyond the academic to offer concrete, practical policy guidance and to educate the global public.

I would also stress the importance of the Endowment's significant presence here in Moscow. It is one thing to provide scholarly "advice" from across the ocean . . . it is quite another to do so in the midst of the country and her people. Your Center is not only encouraging thoughtful analysis of the key challenges facing the United States, Russia and our friends around the world . . . but it's also encouraging the type of international collaboration that is necessary to confront these very challenges.

And so, in my view, it's fitting to use our time today to discuss one of the greatest international challenges of our time: increasing our energy security. I'm sure that many of you have heard these somewhat daunting statistics: our government estimates that the global demand for energy may increase as much as 50 percent by 2025, with the demand for electricity rising more than 75 percent. It is projected that more than half of this growth will come from the world's emerging economies.

At the same time, we all seek to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution worldwide . . . but we also must enable the type of economic growth - particularly in the developing world - that will increase living standards and allow the nations of the world to succeed. In short, we need to develop and deploy energy solutions that encourage global economic growth, and discourage global reliance on fossil fuels and polluting, out-dated technologies.

And I'm pleased to say that this is a key theme of this week's G8 Ministerial meetings - the reason for my trip here to Moscow. I look forward to working with my G8 colleagues to find ways to build a global energy market that at once: encourages investment and competition, promotes conservation and the use of energy-efficient technologies, and ensures transparency, reliability and stability. This is a tall order, to be sure - but it's the type of conversation we must have at an international forum like the G8. Because the challenges we face in this area are far too large, complex and deep-seated to be handled by one nation alone.

Though the solution to our global energy challenges must be international in scope and multifaceted in execution, it will most certainly involve the expansion of nuclear power. And so, today, I'd like to focus on this topic: the immediate - and growing - global need to expand access to emissions-free, safe, nuclear power. And, as importantly, to do so in a way that responsibly manages nuclear waste and reduces the risk that nuclear technology and materials will fall into the wrong hands. It is a topic that relates well to this institution's core mission and ongoing work. I note, in particular, the Endowment's Nonproliferation Project and its report on nuclear security (Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security) released last year.

President Bush considers the safe and secure expansion of nuclear power to be a key policy goal for the United States. And, he has recently proposed a comprehensive strategy to push us forward in this area. Called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership - or GNEP - it's an initiative that seeks to demonstrate the notion that energy and security can go hand in hand.

We envision GNEP as an international collaboration that seeks to: increase the availability of clean, emissions-free power for the world; reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation; and decrease the volume and radiotoxicity of nuclear waste.

It is our hope and expectation that GNEP will expand the use of nuclear power in the U.S. and around the world by developing new proliferation-resistant technologies to recycle spent nuclear fuel. Let me say this: while GNEP will be an international initiative that will benefit many participating countries, this is not an entirely altruistic undertaking. The United States faces a major and pervasive set of challenges related to providing clean, safe energy to power our homes, vehicles and businesses. And if we are to succeed in significantly reducing our dependence on imported energy and further diversifying our energy portfolio, we must expand the use of nuclear power domestically.

At present, nuclear power is the only mature technology of significant potential to supply large amounts of completely emissions-free base load power to help us meet the ever-growing global demand. Through GNEP, we will work with our international partners to develop and demonstrate the technological capability to repeatedly cycle spent fuel. This will one day allow us to recycle nuclear waste and dramatically increase the energy extracted from spent fuel. Simply put, the energy benefits could be enormous.

But that is not the only - or arguably even the most important - up-side. This process of repeatedly cycling spent fuel - which would consume, not separate, plutonium - has the potential to help us reduce proliferation risks and reduce in the amount, heat-load and radiotoxicity of nuclear waste.

To do this we will work with our international partners on both innovative technology development and new mechanisms for the distribution of fuel. On the technology side, we propose a demonstration of an advanced recycling technology - called "UREX Plus" - that does not separate plutonium like the current reprocessing technology utilized by countries around the world. Rather, it keeps the actinides together, including plutonium, so they can be made into fuel to be consumed in "fast neutron" reactors that will also produce electricity. By not separating plutonium, and building in the most advanced safeguards technologies, recycling can be done in a way that greatly reduces proliferation concerns.

Through GNEP, the United States also plans to develop and demonstrate Advanced Burner Reactors (or ABRs). These "fast neutron" reactors would be designed to consume plutonium and other transuranic elements in used fuel, transforming the radiotoxicity of the waste in repeated cycles. The improvements could be remarkable: increased energy extraction; less nuclear waste; decreased heat-load of the remaining waste; and reductions in its radiotoxicity. In other words, GNEP could make permanent disposal of nuclear waste in a geologic repository simpler and safer.

And, in addition to generating less nuclear waste in the future, these technologies could enable us to start reusing the considerable amount of separated plutonium already being stored around the world . . . further reducing the risk that it will be used as weapons material. Regardless of whether one believes that reprocessing has worked well in those nations where it is currently practiced, I think we all would agree that the stores of plutonium that have built up as a consequence of conventional reprocessing technologies pose a growing proliferation risk that requires vigilant attention. This simply must be dealt with - and we need to explore new technologies to get it done.

On the distribution side, we will work with our international partners to develop a fuel services program to supply developing nations with reliable access to nuclear fuel in exchange for a commitment to forgo the development of enrichment and recycling technologies. This echoes an important point that the Carnegie Endowment has advocated: that in order for this type of program to be successful, it must provide for guaranteed fuel services to states that do not enrich and reprocess.

This program would provide a type of "cradle-to-grave" fuel leasing approach. Fuel supplier nations would provide fresh fuel for conventional nuclear power plants located in user nations that agree to refrain from enrichment and reprocessing. Then, used fuel would be returned to the fuel supplier nations and recycled using a process that does not result in separated plutonium.

Let me be clear that we do not propose to develop this recycling technology and then share it with countries that do not have existing reprocessing or enrichment capabilities. But we do envision an expansion of access to nuclear energy. And, in addition to reducing proliferation concerns, this arrangement carries the potential to bring significant economic and environmental benefits to developing countries. In a sense, such a program could allow poorer nations to "leap-frog" over some of the dirtiest (but most rudimentary and prevalent) fossil-fuel-based technologies.

This approach builds on - and, in fact, goes beyond - current IAEA obligations. User nations would consent to refrain from enrichment and reprocessing for an agreed period, based on their own economic interests. Those states that choose to stay outside of the GNEP framework and develop their own fuel cycle facilities would receive increased scrutiny. In addition, GNEP will necessarily include an international safeguard program, and we look forward to sharing our ideas for such a program with the IAEA and participating nations.

Let me offer a bottom line here. The world needs: more clean energy to sustain economic growth and raise living standards, particularly in developing nations; less plutonium; less spent fuel; lower levels of carbon emissions; and new ways to reduce the frightening risks of nuclear proliferation. The program that I have described is one way to help us do this. This initiative is in its early stages, and we look forward to working with the IAEA and the international community to make it a reality. Initial consultations with our Russian, French, Chinese, British, and Japanese colleagues have all been encouraging.

For example, I was pleased to learn that the Russian government has been thinking about a global partnership along the same lines. As we meet here in Moscow, we cannot help but recognize the special responsibility that the United States and Russia have to be good stewards of the enormous nuclear legacy of the Cold War. Though the Cold War is over, the same plutonium-separations process that built strategic weapons has resulted in civil nuclear stocks which now rival weapons stocks. And, all the while, enrichment technology has spread.

And that is why it is so important for the American and Russian governments to continue to work together on these issues - as we have been doing, I believe, more closely than at any point in the past. Our joint work includes collaboration on securing nuclear facilities, training staff, improving emergency response mechanisms, and developing conversion programs (HEU to LEU), among other things. This work has been pushed along by the historic Bratislava accord negotiated by Presidents Bush and Putin. Their leadership is making the world more secure . . . they recognize this grave truth: that having survived the Cold War, we must not lose the nuclear peace.

We can do more, and I believe that this G-8 summit provides a timely opportunity to expand on our on-going work and to explore new partnerships like GNEP. In our discussions this week and going forward, we should be honest with ourselves about the scope of what we are proposing to take on: a program like GNEP will be a massive effort, and one that has not been proposed hastily by the U.S. government. It is the result of careful consideration of our nation's - and our world's - energy needs and responsibilities.

After all, it is quite clear that nuclear power will continue to expand around the world regardless of what the United States does. So, the way I see it, we have a choice. We can play a risky game of catch-up in the coming decades, or we can engage the world with a new, safer, and more secure approach to nuclear energy. The fact is, responsible nuclear powers are in a much stronger position to shape our nuclear future if we are part of it.

I would just conclude with a personal note. I consider this program to be a major challenge - scientifically, diplomatically and financially. This initiative will be expensive - President Bush has recently proposed spending $250 million on it next year alone - and it will be difficult. But, as all of you well know, the things that make our world better, safer and more peaceful are rarely easy. Nor are they cheap or quick. But they are often the things most worth trying.

I greatly appreciate your time today, and I thank you for being here.

Location: Moscow , Russia

Media contact(s): Craig Stevens, (202) 586-4940