DETROIT -- Group of Eight energy ministers yesterday embraced nuclear power, often regarded as a relic of the 1970s, as part of the solution to the security-of-supply risk facing oil-dependent nations during turmoil in the Middle East.
It was one of several initiatives G8 countries agreed to in order to shield their economies from soaring crude oil prices and to reduce the risk of being caught short on energy should Middle Eastern oil exports ever be disrupted.
"Countries can improve their ability to respond to changing energy supply conditions through . . . a mix of energy sources and types," said a communiqué issued by G8 energy ministers after a meeting at Detroit's Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors Corp.
"Most G8 members stress the value of nuclear energy in this context, providing optimal safety and waste handling are ensured," the G8 ministers said.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of a year that has seen a 30-per-cent jump in oil prices to the range of $27 (U.S.) a barrel and forecasts that see it going as high as $30 in the months ahead.
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said he foresees a "new generation of nuclear energy that is even safer than we have today."
European Union Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio added her voice to the pro-nuclear sentiment, saying atomic power is key to fighting climate change under the Kyoto Protocol for her 15-member community.
Herb Dhaliwal, Canada's Natural Resources Minister, told reporters at a press conference that he was "a little surprised" by the degree of pro-nuclear sentiment from other G8 countries around the table yesterday. "The Japanese are talking about building 13 new nuclear plants. The British are talking about refurbishing all their existing nuclear plants, so I have heard more positives than I have heard for a long time on nuclear energy."
Greenpeace Canada spokesman Steven Guilbeault criticized the pro-nuclear statements as outrageous. "I think they are responding to the nuclear lobby."
The ministers also called on both industrialized and developing countries to stockpile sufficient emergency crude supplies so the world will be "prepared to respond to oil disruptions" if chaos in the Middle East grows.
The G8 countries, and the EU in particular, called on countries to beef up protection of power infrastructure from terrorist attacks.
"Today we need to throw open the whole concept of energy security to cover the physical security of our energy installations . . . in a phrase, we need to secure energy from the drill to the grill," Ms. de Palacio said.
Yesterday's meeting was one of several G8 ministerial gatherings from environment to energy leading up to the main G8 leaders' summit in Kananaskis, Alta., next month.
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