Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Australia and GNEP

A few days ago the Australian ran a story on Government's potential not-so-transparent role in the George Bush / US initiated Global Nuclear Energy Partnership [GNEP]. The article did not provide much detail other than a review of Australian election rhetoric and Australia's apparent ongoing engagement.

I can't really understand what the fuss is about myself. Even if Australia never initiates a nuclear power program and never even ponders enrichment, reprocessing or waste storage; Australian research could do much to aid the peaceful use of nuclear technology - Silex being just one example.

But Platts contributor Daniel Horner has released a report in Nuclear Fuel [subscription required] that echos a concern I and some other Platts contributors had expressed some time ago about GNEP: that it looks - in the USA at least - to be headed the way of the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative [mostly cartooned websites that do not contain many dates nor receive frequent updates - never a good sign].

DOE's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is likely to survive only in a pared-down form and in particular, without an emphasis on near-term deployment of commercial-scale reprocessing facilities, several observers have said in recent weeks.

A future GNEP could look a lot like the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative did before the Bush administration launched GNEP in early 2006, these sources said. GNEP, which aims to promote the growth of nuclear power in the US and around the world while developing new types of reprocessing plants and fast-neutron reactors, is largely an expanded and accelerated version of AFCI. DOE budget documents refer to AFCI as GNEP's "technology development element."
Specific challenges to ongoing US significant support to GNEP include a less enthusiastic US Executive Branch, the retirement of Senator Pete Dominichi [who, according to Horner, was not a 'wholehearted' supporter of the program.]

But GNEP [remember the 'G' is for 'Global'] may or may not be America's to scale down. Since my post almost 16 months ago, several countries including nuclear middleweights Canada, Korea and heavyweight the UK have jointed GNEP. Closing the nuclear fuel cycle makes sense to a lot of people - including many in the US according to Horner. Depending on the interest of the other program participants, the overarching goals of the GNEP could still be achieved.

So what's in store for Australia? No idea.


  1. Enthusiasts for low carbon but non-nuclear baseload electricity often cite two companies involved in geothermal and solar thermal respectively. However a look at their February 2009 press releases doesn't inspire confidence. Those companies are Geodynamics
    and Ausra ausra-optimistic-about-its-future .
    Yet these companies have had the uncritical support of State premiers, senior bureaucrats and our very own Federal minister for energy and resources. It's worrying when the people appointed to lead us out of trouble appear to be living in some kind of dream world.

  2. Yes John, I am very worried. Australia will never achieve respectable carbon emission reductions without a healthy sliver of nuclear generating capacity.

    I predict we will continue to try to talk and bribe our way out of serious effort by shipping money overseas to reduce emissions there while asking energy ratepayers to foot the bill back here.

    And if that effort fails and emissions continue to rise; who takes the heat? We will. I think the fires and floods are a frightening forecast of even worse events to come.