orld leaders are planning a massive expansion of nuclear power in their own countries and across the developing world, according to documents drawn up for the G8 summit and leaked to the Sunday Herald.
An action plan for “global energy security” to be agreed in St Petersburg next weekend envisages a network of nuclear fuel plants in G8 countries combined with the widespread sale of reactors to developing countries – as long as they promise not to use them for making nuclear bombs.
G8 leaders also want to resurrect fast breeder reactors, which are highly controversial because they “breed” plutonium, a nuclear explosive. It was this type of reactor that was pioneered, and abandoned, at Dounreay on the north coast of Scotland.
Environmentalists accuse leaders of “double standards and dangerous hypocrisy”. But the G8’s nuclear plans are likely to be backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose own much-heralded energy review favouring new nuclear stations in the UK is due to be launched this week.
The G8 summit is due to take place in St Petersburg between July 15 and 17, just over a year after the leaders of the world’s eight most powerful countries met at Gleneagles in Scotland. This time it will be led by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has put global energy security at the top of the agenda.
Confidential drafts of the energy “plan of action” drawn up by the “sherpas”, the senior G8 officials who guide prime ministers and presidents towards the summit, have been passed to the Sunday Herald.
One of the plan’s main aims is to spread nuclear power stations around the globe.
The latest version of the action plan says: “Those of us who have plans relating to the use and/or expansion of nuclear energy believe that its development will promote prosperity and global energy security, while simultaneously offering a positive contribution to the climate change challenge.”
Improving the economic com petitiveness of nuclear power will “benefit all nations”, the plan argues. But nuclear expansion has to be based, it says, “on a robust regime for assuring nuclear non-proliferation and a reliable safety and security system for nuclear materials and facilities”.
The idea is to keep the more sensitive nuclear facilities that can be easily diverted for making bombs within the G8. Other countries would not be allowed to enrich uranium fuel, or to reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium.
They will be permitted to run reactors to generate electricity but will have to buy fuel enrichment and reprocessing services from G8 countries. “Participation of developing countries in a ‘shared nuclear energy system’ through developing the network of international centres providing nuclear fuel services could be a viable option for reducing their energy poverty and bridging the energy gap,” the plan says.
At the same time, G8 leaders are proposing to bring back fast breeder reactors, which were scrapped in Germany, France and the UK in the 1990s because they were too expensive. They are designed to create and burn plutonium and are much less reliant on imports of uranium.
The leaked action plan says: “A significant step in promotion of self- sustainable nuclear power would be attained through the development of innovative nuclear power systems based on closed nuclear fuel cycles with fast neutron reactors.”
This is a dramatic change, since fast reactors have been off the political agenda in Western countries for at least a decade. And it will run into fierce opposition because of the risks it poses for international efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons.
“We’ve come to expect double standards and
dangerous hypocrisy from the G8 but this year they are set to
surpass themselves,” said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace