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Idaho National Laboratory

Feature Story

National Laboratory Directors Highlight Scientific Merits of Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2006 - The directors of nine of the nation's major national laboratories today announced their support for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and discussed the collaboration among the labs in carrying out the partnership. GNEP is a redefinition of the nation's nuclear energy strategy that will set the agenda for the years ahead.

Photo: Clay Sell, DOE Deputy Secretary

Clay Sell, DOE Deputy Secretary

"The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership demonstrates the enormous role that advanced nuclear science and technology can play in making the world a better, cleaner, safer place to live by providing abundant, affordable emissions-free energy and reducing the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation," said Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell. "The national labs are charged with realizing this vision, which is embodied in GNEP."

The national lab directors have been working together on U.S. energy initiatives for several years. The directors see the definition, development and implementation of GNEP as a unique opportunity to join together to address a significant national need. They stressed the urgency of proceeding with the work that will make GNEP a reality.

Photo: John Grossenbacher, INL Director

John Grossenbacher, INL Director

"Moving forward with the research and technology development proposed under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is of great importance to all Americans," said John Grossenbacher, director of Idaho National Laboratory. "We will be developing and demonstrating in the U.S. new recycling technologies for used nuclear fuel that may produce more energy, reduce nuclear waste and address proliferation concerns. We also will be working on a new generation of reactors with inherently safe features suitable for fueling the economies of the developing world."

The national laboratories are working on the GNEP program in unison. Universities and industry will be involved in all phases of the program.

"Our goal is to develop the technology options and the analyses that will be the foundation for future decisions to be made about the direction of the nation's nuclear energy program and the technologies that will be moved into the commercial sector," said Jeff Wadsworth, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Photo: Bob Kuckuck, LANL Director

Bob Kuckuck, LANL Director

"As the use of nuclear energy expands globally, it is essential that it occurs in a fashion that actually reduces the fears of nuclear proliferation," noted Bob Kuckuck, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. "We can accomplish this by integrating modern safeguards and nuclear materials management concepts into future nuclear fuel cycles, from the very beginning and not adding them after the fact."

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director George Miller stressed that "U.S. leadership in developing advanced safeguards and security technology is paramount to protect against diversion of nuclear materials by states or sub-state actors. It is critical that we work with suppliers and the International Atomic Energy Agency on an international framework and mechanism for supply, storage and disposal in concert with the global development of technology for advanced fuel recycle, fast reactors and small-scale reactors."

The GNEP Technology Demonstration Program is based on a five-year technology plan, which is currently being developed by scientists from the national labs. This detailed roadmap for the GNEP technology development and demonstration process is focused on technologies that will:

"As we demonstrate these technologies in real applications, we will be able to advance the designs even further and incorporate the lessons we've learned," said Todd Wright, director of the Savannah River National Laboratory. "This is a rigorous process designed to demonstrate the technical credibility of the research that has been and will be conducted."

Three major demonstration facilities are expected to be built, following the decision on the technologies in fiscal year 2008:

Each of these facilities will yield safety, cost and performance information that can guide future commercial designs.

Photo: Bob Rosner, ANL Director

Bob Rosner, ANL Director

"GNEP will also help advance other technologies that are needed for its implementation. For example, developing more efficient and accurate science-based computer simulation tools is critical to meeting the deployment goals of GNEP, since many of our current tools are 20 years old. The advanced simulation tools we will develop to support GNEP will take advantage of developments in basic science, modeling and computer architecture that will help us rapidly test innovative approaches and improve our ability to control sensitive materials," said Bob Rosner, director of the Argonne National Laboratory.

"Taken together, the nuclear fuel-focused technologies to be developed and demonstrated in GNEP will be an enormous step forward in solving both proliferation and waste management concerns," said Tom Hunter, director of Sandia National Laboratories. "While the nation must have a nuclear waste repository, a successfully implemented GNEP is certainly complementary to moving forward on Yucca Mountain and can drastically reduce or eliminate the need for additional repositories."

GNEP also calls for the development of small, proliferation-resistant reactors with suitable inherent safety characteristics, sized to the electric transmission grids of small, developing nations that need reliable electrical energy for their economic growth.

"Providing clean, dependable and affordable electricity is the single most important commodity we can contribute to improving the quality of life in underdeveloped countries," said Mike Lawrence, deputy director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

"Ensuring public and worker safety is the foundation for all aspects of GNEP. All facilities and operations within GNEP, including small reactors, actinide burner reactors, fuel cycle facilities, and transportation activities, will be considered as an integrated system and accordingly managed to ensure safety through the program's lifecycle, said Peter Bond, deputy director for Science and Technology, of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Photo: Peter Bond, BNL Director

Peter Bond, BNL Director

GNEP is part of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative. The national lab directors lead the nation's most prestigious and productive scientific research laboratories, where more than 30,000 scientists and engineers work to secure our energy, economic and national security through cutting-edge technology. The nine national labs are Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Savannah River National Laboratory.

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