Italy resurrects nuclear power industry

ITALY - In November 1987, Italy quit the nuclear energy industry after a referendum phased out nuclear energy production in the country.

As a result, four power plants in the cities of Latina, Trino, Garigliano and Caorso were closed, and construction on Montalto di Castro NPP was stopped. But in May 2008, Claudio Scajola, Minister for Economic Development, announced that Italy will return to nuclear power.

This decision responds to two facts.

First, Italy's energy matrix relys heavily on natural gas, which comes primarily from abroad. This affects the country's competitiveness. There is also a need to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in order to meet Kyoto Protocol restrictions. Scajola said the optimal energy matrix for Italy would include 25% of the installed generating capacity from renewable sources, 25% from nuclear sources and the remaining 50% from fossil-fueled power plants.

Italy took another step forward this year by signing a memorandum of cooperation with the French government to create a joint venture between Enel Spa and EDF to develop feasibility studies for the construction of four European pressurized water reactor units in Italy. Once the technical, political and financial aspects are solved, the companies will create individual companies to build, commission and operate the four units. These companies will be majority owned by Enel, and the incorporation of third-party companies is being contemplated, as long as Enel and EDF remain as majority shareholders.

According to Enel's preliminary plan, construction of the first unit should start by 2013 with a five-year construction period for each unit; by 2020, the four units are expected to be fully operational and supplying 6,000 megawatts (MW) to the national power grid, equivalent to 10% of the national energy consumption.


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