173705 10/14/2008 21:08 08STATE109919 Secretary of State UNCLASSIFIED R 142108Z OCT 08 FM SECSTATE WASHDC TO USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA INFO AMEMBASSY CANBERRA AMEMBASSY SOFIA AMEMBASSY OTTAWA AMEMBASSY BEIJING AMEMBASSY PARIS AMEMBASSY ACCRA AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST AMEMBASSY ROME AMEMBASSY TOKYO AMEMBASSY AMMAN AMEMBASSY ASTANA AMEMBASSY SEOUL AMEMBASSY VILNIUS AMEMBASSY WARSAW AMEMBASSY VIENNA AMEMBASSY RABAT AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST AMEMBASSY MOSCOW AMEMBASSY DAKAR AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA AMEMBASSY KYIV AMEMBASSY LONDON AMEMBASSY TALLINN AMEMBASSY YEREVAN AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE UNCLAS STATE 109919
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ENRG, KNNP, TRGY, AU
SUBJECT: Second Meeting of the GNEP Reliable Nuclear Fuel Services Working Group
1. Summary. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) Working Group on Reliable Nuclear Fuel Services held its second meeting September 3 - 4 2008 in Vienna Austria. The Group decided to establish two sub-groups, one on fact-finding and a second on the back end of the fuel cycle. The Fact Finding subgroup, co-led by France and Poland, will study lessons learned by members who have dealt with fuel cycle issues as well as long term resource and supply issues. The back end group, led by France will explore the ways to deal with spent-fuel take-back and the elements and criteria for closing the fuel cycle. Terms of reference for the back-end sub-group will be presented at the next Working Group meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 2009. The fact-finding subgroup will report on its work to the next meeting. Two other sub-groups were identified: (1) mechanisms needed to increase the diversity of fabricated fuel supply and (2) what kind of assurances a country should consider as sufficient for nuclear fuel supply. The U.S. co-chairs will be calling for expression of interest for leadership of these two sub-groups. In developing the themes for the sub-groups, views and perspectives were considered from Partner countries involved in various aspects of nuclear power as well as those countries considering the use of nuclear power for the first time. End Summary.
2. Participants. The meeting opened on the morning of September 3 under the co-chairmanship of William Szymanski and Sean Oehlbert of the US Department of Energy. In addition to the United States, representatives of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Japan, Jordan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom participated. The IAEA attended as an observer.
3. Discussion of the Survey. The focal point of this meeting was an exchange of views on a survey, conducted between the first and second meetings, on the meaning of reliable fuel services and the legal, regulatory and policy framework for member's fuel cycle activities. Eleven members responded to the survey. There was broad agreement that the market for front end fuel services was working well, but considerable difference in view on other aspects. It was noted that one respondent believed that recent HEU down-blending activities had depressed the price of uranium and made it more difficult to develop new sources of uranium.
4. France observed that there was an active market addressing the back end of the fuel cycle through reprocessing and that several states offered these services. Several other members commented that reprocessing raised complex and difficult economic issues. Others noted that for some states reprocessing decisions were politically sensitive, so reprocessing decisions could not always be based solely on economic criteria. The IAEA representative noted that the back end of the fuel cycle remained an issue because only one-third of spent nuclear fuel is currently being reprocessed and no state has yet opened a permanent SNF repository.
5. On the issue of spent fuel take-back, Canada noted the importance of defining the country of origin for nuclear fuel. The country supplying the uranium, the country supplying enrichment services or the fuel fabricator might each be considered the country of origin.
6. On another market-related issue, France argued that competition for fuel fabrication services was inherently limited because fuel design varied with reactor. Supplies of reactor fuel were often based on a long term relationship between reactor-importing states and the reactor supplier. France, Poland and the United Kingdom agreed that the projected expansion of nuclear energy could place strains on the uranium market. As countries considering nuclear energy, Poland and Jordan both expressed concern that the long-term availability of uranium fuel might make going nuclear a bad choice. Jordan expressed concern that the market will eventually drive the price for uranium services higher or that countries will provide such services to their national reactors rather than small states. The United States replied that this uncertainty was not unique to nuclear energy, noting the recent volatility of petroleum prices and the uncertain impact of proposed carbon taxes. Expanded use of any energy source will raise long term supply and price concerns. France noted that there was no shortage of uranium at present and that any shortage, if it occurred, would take decades to develop. Long term supply contract have helped make reactor fuel markets less volatile than fossil fuel markets. The IAEA noted that its studies indicated that uranium supply will be adequate for several decades. China concurred and noted that many uranium sources have not yet been exploited.
7. On the issue of supply delays due to transport delay, Australia noted that while the IAEA has well-established standards for transporting radioactive material, differing national interpretations of those standards had caused problems. The IAEA agreed with this assessment.
8. IAEA Presentation. On the morning of September 4, Mr. Hans Forsstrom of the Nuclear Fuel and Materials Section of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy made a presentation on IAEA work on the back end of the fuel cycle. He noted that long term storage was a mature technology and that the IAEA SPAR program is trying to anticipate future storage problems. Forsstrom noted that many countries appear to be waiting for back end fuel cycle questions to be resolved, thereby choosing to rely upon existing storage technologies. An expansion of nuclear energy may require increased use of reprocessing and fast reactors, but noted that these developments raised nonproliferation concerns. The 2005 IAEA study on multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle identified several objective advantages of such approaches. The main problems facing the use of multilateral approaches are political.
9. National Approaches to Back End of Fuel Cycle. Closing the fuel cycle remained a long-term goal for the United States, which has focused on advanced fuel recycling research. The advantages of spent fuel take-back were recognized, but currently this too remained a long-term goal for the United States. France reprocesses its spent fuel, and regards reprocessing as a mature technology. Reprocessing reduces the quantity and radioactivity of waste and is regarded as key to the sustainability of the nuclear energy industry. The United Kingdom has also supported reprocessing but noted that its facilities were aging. The UK is currently looking at all options for the future, and intends to continue reprocessing only if it is commercially viable. The Netherlands has a contract in place for the reprocessing of its spent fuel. Renewal of this contract will have to be approved by parliament, however, where reprocessing is a controversial issue. China intends to adopt a closed fuel cycle and has a pilot reprocessing plant in place. The other participants did not make statements on their approaches.
10. Future Work. Turning to future work and the creation of sub-groups, the Working Group decided to address the issues under five general themes - fuel assurances, the back end of the fuel cycle, collateral issues, fuel fabrication and fact finding. Several participants objected that five sub-groups were too many to be usefully working at on one time. At the suggestion of France, the group decided to follow the decision of the infrastructure working group, which designated individual countries as focal points to work on specific issues without the necessity of holding sub-group meetings. It was decided to establish two sub-groups, one on fact-finding and a second on the back end of the fuel cycle. The Fact finding subgroup, co-led by France and Poland, will study lessons learned by members who have dealt with fuel cycle issues as well as long term resource and supply issues. The back end group, led by France will explore the ways to deal with spent-fuel take-back and the elements and criteria for closing the fuel cycle. Terms of reference for the back-end sub-group will be presented at the next Working Group meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 2009. The fact-finding subgroup will report on its work to the next meeting. Two other sub-groups were identified: (1) mechanisms needed to increase the diversity of fabricated fuel supply and (2) what kind of assurances a country should consider as sufficient for nuclear fuel supply. The U.S. co-chairs will be calling for expression of interest for leadership of these two sub-groups. In developing the themes for the sub-groups, views and perspectives were considered from Partner countries involved in various aspects of nuclear power as well as those countries such as Jordan and Poland considering the use of nuclear power for the first time.
11. Organizational. The United State will continue to chair the Working Group until the end of 2008. The chair will consult with other members in the next few weeks to determine a chair for 2009. The first meeting for 2009 was tentatively set for March. France offered to host a Working Group meeting in 2009 that could include a visit to the La Hague reprocessing facility. RICE
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