Risky Appropriations: Gambling U.S. Energy Policy on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

The Global Nuclear Partnership (GNEP) is a major element of the Bush Administration’s energy policy. Its principal goal is to expand the world-wide growth of nuclear energy as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering economic development. Under Bush’s plan, the United States and its nuclear partners would sell power reactors to developing nations who agree not to pursue technologies that would aid nuclear weapons production, notably reprocessing and uranium enrichment.

To sweeten the deal, the United States would take highly radioactive spent fuel rods to a recycling center in this country. The foreign reactor wastes, along with spent fuel from the U.S. reactor fleet, would be reprocessed to reduce the amount that would go deep underground. Nuclear explosive materials, such as plutonium, would also also be separated and converted to less troublesome isotopes in a new generation reactors operated in the United States.

However, our investigation found that:

  • GNEP is a rushed, ill-conceived, poorly supported and technically and economically risky expansion and redirection of the nuclear industry. None of the technologies and processes proposed for GNEP current exist in commercially viable applications and only a few have been demonstrated in large, engineering scale projects.
  • Even if its unproven technologies are shown to be viable, GNEP also has the potential to inhibit the adoption of more reasonable solutions to global climate change by diverting resources into an unproven and, most likely, a prohibitively expensive nuclear option.
  • GNEP also would increase the danger of nuclear proliferation and the potential for weapons grade materials falling into the hands of hostile or unstable nations and terrorist groups.
  • GNEP will likely worsen the radioactive waste disposal problem and would also make the United States the dumping ground for nuclear wastes from the other participating nations.