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Closing Statement to the GNEP Ministerial

October 1, 2008 - 3:43pm

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Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Bodman

Thank you, Minister Borloo . . . and many thanks to the French government for hosting this meeting and for your leadership within GNEP.

I also want to acknowledge the four newest members of our Partnership: Armenia, Estonia, Morocco and Oman, each of which signed our Statement of Principles today.

As Minister Borloo indicated, today the GNEP members adopted a Joint Statement that reaffirms our strong commitment to ensuring that the expansion of civilian nuclear power is done safely and securely. . .  in a manner that reduces the risk of nuclear proliferation and responsibly manages used nuclear fuel.

Our Partnership operates with an eye to the future and a firm and realistic grasp on current conditions.

We recognize that given global energy demand and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, civilian nuclear power expansion will occur - indeed, it is happening now.

So, the question becomes: can we shape our nuclear energy future in a way that not only benefits our economies and our environment, but improves our security as well?

Our participation in GNEP signals to the world that we believe we can . . . and, in fact, that we are actively engaged in leading the world toward that shared future.

The growth of GNEP to 25 members in just one year - and the level, breadth and depth of our Partnership - is further evidence of the urgency of our collective mission.

We have made strong progress in a short amount of time . . . with a Steering Group and Working Groups up and running and producing tangible results.

To date, our work - both at the Ministerial level and among our technical experts - has focused on two major elements.

First, we remain focused on the need to expand civilian nuclear power in the context of proper infrastructure development - like human resources, financing, safety, regulatory and legislative frameworks - for all partner nations at all stages of their nuclear power programs.

Second, we recognize the need to continue our work to establish comprehensive fuel supply and service arrangements, especially with regard to the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Our Working Group on Reliable Nuclear Fuel Services is leading this effort and working in conjunction with our partner organizations, including the IAEA, as I just had the opportunity to discuss earlier this week in Vienna.

In these areas and others, GNEP members recognize that individual nations have the responsibility to adopt domestic policies that support our collective goals.

In the United States we're taking concrete steps to meet our own obligations and to expand civilian nuclear power safely and securely.

Among other things, over the past year, the Department of Energy has issued filing instructions for companies building new nuclear power plants to qualify for a portion of an available $2 billion in federal risk insurance . . . and so far we've received Notices of Intent from three companies interested in pursuing Conditional Agreements.

We've also announced solicitations for federal loan guarantees - totaling up to $38.5 billion - for advanced clean energy projects that avoid, reduce or sequester emissions of air pollutants or greenhouse gases.

This total includes about $20.5 billion in loan guarantees to encourage the expansion of nuclear power by supporting next-generation power reactors and facilities that enrich nuclear fuel more efficiently.

This is not the only encouraging evidence of a resurgence of nuclear power in the United States.  In about a year's time, 15 new applications for Combined Operating Licenses covering 24 nuclear reactors have been filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Finally, I would point out that in June, the Department of Energy submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (or NRC) seeking authorization to build America's first national geological repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

The NRC has determined that the Department's application is sufficiently complete to begin a full technical review and licensing proceeding, which will be conducted over the next three to four years.

This important milestone brings the United States one step closer to fulfilling what I view as our responsibility to future generations: to deal with spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste on a permanent - not a temporary - basis . . . while at the same time pursuing new technologies for recycling spent fuel - through our Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and GNEP - which have the potential to significantly reduce the volume, thermal output and radiotoxicity of waste requiring permanent, geologic disposal.

In closing let me just say that though this is my last GNEP Ministerial meeting, I am heartened by the strides we've already made together . . . and I look forward to this Partnership's continued success.    To that end, I want to thank the People's Republic of China for offering to host the next Ministerial meeting.

Whatever the future holds for the United States politically, I believe that nuclear power will continue to play an increasingly large role in our energy mix.  And, given the energy security challenges our world faces, and the need to limit global greenhouse gas emissions, President Bush and I remain convinced that GNEP's vision - for the safe, secure expansion of civilian nuclear power - will enhance the world's security, economic development and environmental health for decades to come.   Thank you.

Location: Paris, France

Media contact(s): Bethany Shively, (202) 586-4940

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