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Italy presses ahead with nuclear as energy transition tool after 30-plus-year hiatus

The Italian Chamber of Deputies will launch a major inquiry into how nuclear energy could help Italy reach its energy transition goals, a significant step as the country remains the only G7 nation not operating nuclear power stations, having shut down the last plant over 30 years ago.

On Tuesday, the chamber’s Environment Committee decided to conduct a fact-finding study on the role of nuclear energy in guiding Italy through the energy transition, to achieve decarbonisation by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.

However, only members of the pro-nuclear majority voted in favour, while representatives of the Democratic Party (PD/S&D), the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Green Left Alliance abstained.

Italy is currently the only G7 nation without any operating nuclear power stations, as it shut down its last one of a previous total of four in 1990 following a referendum on banning nuclear power.

A previous attempt to bring back nuclear power from the former pro-nuclear government of late Silvio Berlusconi, who took office in 2008 and proposed that nuclear power comprise 25% of Italy’s energy mix by 2030, was shot down by a referendum in 2011.

Commenting on Italy’s current energy transition efforts, Davide Tabarelli, president of energy and environmental research company Nomisma Energia, noted the dire state of affairs.

“If there is a climate emergency, we must have advanced third-generation reactors immediately and not wait for the fourth or fifth, or even nuclear fusion, which is still a dream at the moment,” he said, adding that an urgent decarbonisation initiative should commence without delay.

Tabarelli, who was recently appointed special envoy to the troubled ex-Ilva steelworks in Taranto, also stressed the importance of nuclear power in Europe, saying that while existing plants such as those in France were ageing, the continent needed nuclear energy to complement the currently less consistent production of renewables.

However, enthusiasm about nuclear energy is not shared by everyone.

Speaking to Euractiv, Katiuscia Eroe, Legambiente energy expert, said: “It is clear, data in hand on the role of nuclear power globally, timing, cost, and unresolved problems, that nuclear power can have no role in Italy’s energy transition”.

“Safe nuclear power does not exist, it’s pure science fiction. We do not have time, in a country with an average of more than 140 extreme weather events, to think about failing technologies,” she added.

On Monday, Italy joined the EU nuclear alliance as an observer at the Energy Council in Brussels.

In addition, last November, Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ansaldo Nucleare, RATEN, SCK CEN and Westinghouse Electric Company for the joint industry-wide development of the Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

Source: Euractiv