But they warned that further development of nuclear plants must adhere to nonproliferation standards.
"A growing number of countries have expressed interest in nuclear power programs as a means to addressing climate change and energy security concerns. These countries regard nuclear power as an essential instrument in reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and hence greenhouse gas emissions," the leaders said in a statement on environment and climate change.
At the same time, the G8 leaders said those nations wishing to pursue atomic power must assure the international community that nuclear materials are tightly controlled and not diverted for arms.
"We reiterate that safeguards (against nuclear nonproliferation), nuclear safety and nuclear security are fundamental principles for the peaceful use of nuclear energy," the statement added.
Some 29 countries worldwide have indicated they wish to introduce nuclear power, while countries that currently use the energy source, especially Japan, the United States and Russia, have announced plans to expand capacity. In a separate report on global energy security principles, Japan said it plans to increase nuclear power generation to as much as 40 percent of total electricity generation by 2030.
However, plans to continue to build not only conventional uranium-powered plants but also a spent fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, and to promote plutonium-burning fast-breeder reactors have long been a source of controversy within and without the G8.
Antinuclear activists and environmental NGOs have dismissed G8 plans to increase reliance on nuclear power as a solution to climate change, while nonproliferation experts and many IAEA officials have expressed concerns about increased proliferation.
"All this talk of a worldwide nuclear renaissance is just that. The reality is that no new plants have come on line in years, and given the huge investment and long time frame it takes to start up a nuclear power plant, it's unrealistic to think that they can help alleviate climate change anytime in the future," said Jurgen Maier, a German NGO representative.
(Source: Electric Light & Power)