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G8 Leaders Face Up To Nuclear Issues

Industrial world leaders address nonproliferation and rising energy concerns

by Lois Ember, Glen Hess And Bette Hileman
July 24, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 30

The recently completed meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, of the nations with the world's largest economies, termed the Group of Eight, included significant discussions dealing with global technological problems such as nuclear proliferation and rocketing energy demand.

In issuing a statement on nonproliferation, the G8 spotlighted its concern that the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially into the hands of terrorists, is the central threat to international peace and security.

The statement's preamble calls on all nations now not party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention, and the 1925 Geneva Protocol to ratify "without delay." The preamble also asks those countries that have not subscribed to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation to do so.

On July 15, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the Global Initiative To Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The initiative aims to prevent terrorists from getting materials that could be used in a nuclear or radiological weapon. The G8 endorsed the initiative and pointedly called on all nations to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its safeguards systems.

The U.S. and Russia also agreed to enhance their cooperation on nuclear energy. "We express our intent to develop bilateral cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy," said a joint statement by Bush and Putin. "We have directed our governments to begin negotiations with the purpose of concluding an agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on [nuclear] cooperation."

Putin said Russia supports the Bush Administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and that the key is to find a place to store spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing and recycling in a way that guards against proliferation of materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The goal of future talks will be an agreement allowing Russia to import and store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied reactors around the world. The first center in eastern Siberia would be ready for operation under IAEA supervision next year.

The G8 also reaffirmed its commitment to the $20 billion Global Partnership, a 10-year initiative agreed to in 2002 to prevent the spread of unconventional weapons from the former Soviet Union. To date, 21 nations and the European Union have pledged $17.5 billion. About $3.5 billion has been spent, and Russia has been the primary beneficiary.

In their joint statement, the G8 leaders noted that global energy demand is likely to grow 50% by 2030 and pledged to address this demand by supporting renewable and alternative energy sources. They reaffirmed existing G8 commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promised to continue discussions on the steps to be taken after the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. They also stressed the importance of improving energy efficiency, saying it would strengthen global energy security.

In addition, the leaders promised to demonstrate leadership at the national level by incorporating energy-efficient technologies into government buildings. Because two-thirds of the world's oil is consumed by the transportation sector, they promised to provide incentives for consumers to purchase efficient vehicles such as hybrids and clean diesels.



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