18 May 2009 – Italy’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, has approved measures aimed to bring the country closer to bringing back nuclear energy, which it rejected more than 20 years ago.
The only Group of Eight industrialised nation without nuclear power, Italy voted in 1987 to shut its plants and suspend building new ones after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has since made nuclear revival one of priorities for his government.
Under the new draft law on development and energy, the government will be given six months to prepare necessary legislation and select sites for new nuclear power plants.
The draft law, backed by the Senate on Thursday, will be passed to the lower house of parliament next week for final approval, generally taken for granted because of the wide support which Berlusconi’s government enjoys there.
Apart from selecting nuclear plant sites, the government will have to define rules for nuclear waste storage, introduce streamlined procedure for new plants’ approval and set up an agency to supervise nuclear safety.
The government would also come up with compensation measures for communities which may agree to host new nuclear power stations.
Local authorities have a final say on industrial projects’ approval in Italy and public opinion has been hostile to nuclear energy. Opponents say densely populated Italy is not fit for nuclear plants and has no funds for such costly projects.
Its supporters say Italy needs it to diversify energy supplies and reduce heavy dependence on fossil fuel imports as well as cut emissions of heat-trapping CO2.