Italian Deputies vote to overturn nuclear ban

Friday, November 7, 2008

A government bill overturning Italy's moratorium on nuclear power has been approved by the lower chamber of the country's government and has been passed for approval to the country's Senate.

The bill, approved by the Camera dei Deputati on 4 November, was amended several times after much debate between the right-wing majority and the minority and also within the government itself. The amendments include a new deadline of 30 June 2009 for the government to find sites for new nuclear power plants, revised from the original deadline of December 2008 (the sites of Italy's shut down nuclear plants are no longer considered suitable); the establishment of a Nuclear Regulatory Agency, whose board will be named by the country's president in consultation with the prime minister and the government; and provision for the sites of the new plants to be subjected to military control if necessary.

The bill will also see Sogin (Societa Gestione Impianti Nucleari), the state-owned firm in charge of the decommissioning of the old nuclear facilities, and ENEA, the Italian Agency for Energy Research, put into compulsory administration; the goal of this process is to privatise SOGIN and redistribute its assets to other firms involved in the energy sector and at least 20% controlled by the government.

The only Italian firm satisfying these requirements is the Genoa-based Ansaldo Nucleare, 100% controlled by Ansaldo Energia, Finmeccanica Group. Ansaldo already has partnerships established with reactor builders, notably Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), with whom it completed units 1 and 2 at Romania's Cernavoda nuclear power plant, and Westinghouse, providing technical assistance for the European version of the AP1000 reactor.

Sogin recently launched a new business plan to accelerate the decommissioning of Italy's defunct nuclear plants which, which would see the former fuel fabrication plant at Bosco Marengo becoming the first facility to be safely decommissioned in 2009. The first nuclear power plant to be decommissioned will be Trino, in 2013.

Italy was amongst the earliest countries to adopt nuclear and in the 1970s was the world's third largest producer of nuclear energy, but a 1987 referendum resulted in a shut down of all of its nuclear power facilities. In the intervening years, the country has developed a strong dependence on energy imports, and now suffers from electricity prices much higher than the EU average.

The Italian government has been strongly supportive of the resurrection of nuclear energy in Italy since the very beginning of its mandate in April 2008. The minister of economic development, Claudio Scajola, has repeatedly stated that Italy has no other option than to develop nuclear energy in order to fulfil its environmental duties while having access to cheaper energy.

Posted in |