ROME - Italy has changed tack and decided to go with nuclear energy. “Before the end of this legislature, we will lay the first stone for the construction of a group of new-generation nuclear power stations in Italy”, announced the minister for economic development, Claudio Scajola, in the course of a speech to the Confindustria manufacturers’ association. The minister went on: “Only nuclear facilities make it possible to produce energy on a large scale, safely and at competitive prices, while respecting the environment”.
BERLUSCONI’S PLEDGE – The decision to back nuclear energy “is a solemn commitment by the Prime Minister Berlusconi to the new government’s act of faith. We will honour that pledge with conviction and determination”. Mr Scajola pointed out the need to draw up “a national energy strategy including priorities, guidelines and implementation tools for the short and long term” and which will be submitted for public consultation at a national conference for energy and the environment.
LEGAMBIENTE – “Here we go again with the fairy tale about nuclear power solving all of Italy’s energy problems” was the comment on the news from Legambiente. “Before it starts flinging atoms around”, said Legambiente president, Vittorio Cogliati Dezza, “the government should tell us where it intends to get the money to build the power stations from. To take one example, the first and so far only nuclear reactor commissioned in western Europe after Chernobyl, on the island of Olkiluoto in Finland, has already overshot its budget by 35%. And the US Energy Information Administration – not some bunch of eco-fanatics, mark you – says that electricity from a new nuclear power station is 15% more expensive than electricity from natural gas, even without factoring in disposal of the waste and decommissioning the power station itself. By ‘new generation’, Mr Scajola means ‘fourth generation’, which is still in the early stages. If all goes well, power stations of that type will be available in 20-25 years”. Legambiente also asks the government to say where it wants to build the new power stations.
ENEL READY – “From a technical point of view, ENEL is ready”, said the power giant’s CEO Fulvio Conti, commenting on the government’s announcement on nuclear energy in Italy. “The legislature’s five-year term could be a feasible timescale” but what is needed is “an up-to-date regulatory framework and a strong commitment to the project from the territory”.
EDISON WILL PLAY ITS PART – There was another positive reaction to Mr Scajola’s statement from Umberto Quadrino, CEO of Edison, Italy’s second-largest power company. “The new government’s willingness to consider nuclear energy, and more generally diversification of the energy mix, is particularly praiseworthy. Edison is ready to do its part and work with the government to carry through this process”.
GREENPEACE: “UNACCEPTABLE” – According to the international environmentalist organisation, Greenpeace, “the government’s announcement is unacceptable and sounds like a declaration of war. Is the government thinking about re-opening the debate with decree laws? It will get the response it deserves”, said Giuseppe Onufrio, campaign director for Greenpeace Italia. “What is needed is less red tape for renewable sources and the launch of a national plan for energy efficiency, which could offer, for less than the cost of production, the equivalent of fifteen power stations by 2020. That is the road to go down, not the nuclear one”.