G8 Leaders Agree on Approach to Global Energy Security

MOSCOW, Russia, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - Leaders of the Group of Eight, G8, have reached a "common approach" to the issue of "global energy security," Russian President Vladimir Putin said today after a briefing with his top energy officials ahead of the G8 summit meeting later this week.

Putin briefed them on the draft agreements that will be discussed when the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union meet July 15-17 at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

"As a whole, we have now reached a common approach with our colleagues on this issue," Putin said. "But on the eve of the summit, and before the document will be discussed and, hopefully, adopted, I would like not only to inform you about the basic provisions of our agreements, but also to hear your opinion and ideas on the subject," he told the group.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin briefs top energy officials today at Novo-Ogaryovo, a Presidential residence outside Moscow. (Photo courtesy Presidential Press and Information Office)
Taking part the meeting were President's Chief of Staff Sergey Sobyanin, Presidential Aide and Russian G8 Sherpa Igor Shuvalov, as well as the chief officials responsible for natural resources, oil, gas, transportation and nuclear energy.

The substance of their discussions was not made public.

Energy security is among the subjects Russia has chosen to address in its perogative as host country. Not only do energy security questions underlie many of today's global conflicts, but the subject is of great interest to Russia as an energy supplier to the world. In proven reserves the Russian Federation has four times more oil and gas than all the other G8 countries together.

Bilaterally, the United States and Russia have decided to begin negotiations that could lead to Russia's acceptance of U.S. spent nuclear fuel.

In a briefing at the White House on Saturday, U.S. National Security Advisor Steve Hadley said the idea of U.S. spent nuclear fuel being stored in Russia is an idea that has been around for over a decade.

"It's something that we'll have to talk about, because in order to do that, there would have to be all kinds of technical details and safeguards worked out, and we have not made a decision to do that. We've made a decision to open negotiations on a range of cooperation, and the agreement that would be required if we're going to engage in that cooperation," said Hadley. "That's really all we've done."

Any civilian nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Russia would have to be approved by both the U.S. Congress and the Russian Duma. Part of that agreement may facilitate Russian participation in the Global Nuclear Energy Project and the Gen IV Initiative to develop the next generation of civil nuclear power reactors.

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President George W. Bush and Laura Bush board Marine One en route to Germany and Russia on the South Lawn of the White House July 12, 2006. President Bush will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany and attend the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Kimberlee Hewitt courtesy The White House)
"We have made clear to Russia that for an agreement on peaceful nuke cooperation to go forward, we will need active cooperation in blocking Iran's attempts to obtain nuclear weapons," said Peter Watkins, a White House spokesman.

Watkins did not say when official talks would begin, but a formal announcement is expected at the G8 summit.

On Tuesday, 13 activists demonstrating against nuclear waste import to Russia were detained in St. Petersburg, including co-chairman of Ecodefence group Vladimir Slivyak and Bellona-Russia activist Vera Ponomareva. Besides, deputy editor of Environment and Rights magazine Kristina Rakityanskaya, who monitored the action, was also detained, said Bellona, a Norwegian anti-nuclear advocacy group.

One protester was slightly injured by police. After several hours at the police station the activists were released and will appear in court tomorrow charged with disobedience to the police. All the charges against Slivyak were dropped, he is free.

The environmentalists unfurled a banner reading, "No import of nuclear waste" in front of the Bronze Horseman, a monument to the founder of St. Petersburg, Peter the Great, on Senatskaia Square. The monument is the official symbol of the Russian chairmanship in the upcoming G8 meeting.

Non-proliferation is going to be an important element of the G8 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, the Russian Foreign Ministry said today.

The G8 will most likely take on the issues of North Korea and Iran during the summit, the ministry said.

The work done in this context "must serve the only goal of making the world a safer place by reducing risks related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons," the ministry said in an official statement. "The main objective is to deny terrorists access to the weapons or WMD [weapons of mass destruction] materials."

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Russian police remove anti-nuclear protesters from Senatskaia Square in St. Petersburg. (Photo courtesy Bellona)
At the 2004 G8 summit hosted by the United States, the G8 leaders committed to enhance control over the transfer of sensitive uranium-enrichment technologies and set criteria for the supplies of such technologies. The concern is that uncontrolled proliferation could result in higher risks of the use of enriched uranium and plutonium in WMD or dirty bombs that detonate the radioactive materials with conventional explosives.

Russia's position, the Foreign Ministry said, "is to look for solutions that could guarantee non-nuclear states access to all benefits of peaceful nuclear energy in return for giving up full nuclear cycle ambitions."

"Considering the energy emphasis of the Russian G8 presidency, we have tried to add substance to those ideas," the Foreign Ministry said, "Russia has proposed an initiative enabling the development of global nuclear energy infrastructure providing equal access to all stakeholders while keeping the non-proliferation regime tight."

"This will guarantee access to nuclear fuel cycle products and services for countries not intending to develop sensitive uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies," the ministry said.

This initiative adds weight to the recent efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency and enrichment services suppliers to create a multilateral nuclear framework with guaranteed nuclear fuel supplies. Russia is ready "to deploy an international IAEA controlled nuclear enrichment center at one of its nuclear facilities."

If implemented successfully, this initiative will set the stage, politically and economically, for motivating non-nuclear states to abandon proliferation-sensitive nuclear technologies. The G8, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, has approved the program conceptually.

To ensure the security of the G8 leaders, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has ordered that navigation in a part of the Gulf of Finland and the Neva River be halted from Thursday through Monday, when the summit concludes.

The restrictions will not concern navigation related to G8 summit events; the movement and mooring of vessels bound for the Baltic Sea and from it to the berths and moorages of Kronstadt and Lomonosov; ferries linking these towns; navigation within St. Petersburg commercial harbor from the Golden Gate to the Neva Gate; and technical vessels involved in Vasilyevsky Island maritime passenger terminal construction.