Italy shelves nuclear power plans

20.04.11 @ 09:20

  1. By Andrew Willis

BRUSSELS - The Italian government appears to have shelved plans for a return to nuclear energy, a further sign of the European fall-out following the Japanese Fukushima accident.

  • Italian citizens voted in 1987 to scrap the country's four existing nuclear power plants (Photo: Bigod)

At the same time, Europe's oil sector is bracing itself for tighter EU legislation as the world marks the first-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a return to nuclear power a key campaign proposal during 2008 elections, but on Tuesday (19 April) legislators in the Italian Senate tabled a bill that would scrap legislation on the building of new nuclear power plants.

Analysts said the move was designed to avoid a damaging negative referendum this June on the government's nuclear power plans, with some environmental organisations voicing scepticism over Rome's real intentions.

"For the moment, it is important to move ahead and look to the future, using the best technology available on the market for the production of clean energy, in particular as regards renewable and green energy," Industry Minister Paolo Romani said in a statement.

Italian citizens voted in 1987 to scrap the country's four existing nuclear power plants, with the Japanese accident raising fresh concerns over the controversial energy source.

Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel performed a u-turn on nuclear energy, placing a moratorium on the use of the country's oldest plants, despite earlier plans to extend their lifespan.

An event in Kiev this week served as a further reminder of the potential dangers of nuclear energy, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso among those to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl meltdown, Europe's worst nuclear accident.

The Ukrainian government had hoped to raise €740 million at the international donors conference in order to build to a new sarcophagus over the damaged Chernobyl reactor, but officials said pledges amount to a smaller €550 million.

Turmoil in Europe's nuclear sector comes as oil executives ready themselves for tougher EU rules, as the US marks the first-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident.

An explosion at the drilling rig on 20 April 2010 caused one of the worst oil spills in the industry's history.

Brussels will present new legislation this July to force oil-drilling companies to pay for pollution caused up to 200 nautical miles off European coastlines, a source told the AFP news agency.

Under current EU rules, a 'polluter pays' principle only applies within a radius of 12 nautical miles.