Italy gives nuclear power the boot

Italy follows Germany's lead, voting to sideline nuclear power in the fallout of Japan's Fukushima disaster.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor

Projections for renewable energy mixes in Europe by 2020. Source: European Wind Energy Association, "EU Energy Policy to 2050 - achieving 80-95% emission reduction"

Renewable energy has received more validation in Europe. Italy has followed Germany’s lead, voting today to sideline nuclear power in the fallout of Japan’s Fukushima disaster and as a rebuff to the priorities of its increasingly unpopular prime minster.

Italian voters put the brakes on a planned nuclear revival with a referendum for a one-year moratorium on nuclear power. An astonishing 94.05 percent majority sided against nuclear power, with 54.79 percent voter turnout, the AFP reports.

Italy currently imports nuclear generated power from France, and Italy’s domestic energy provider Enel SpA was recently negotiating a stake in a new 1,650-megawatt Evolutionary Power Reactor, or EPR, in France.

The EPR is a third generation+ reactor design that features added safety measures over older reactor designs. It was developed throughout the 1990's into this decade.

A 1987 anti-nuclear referendum shuttered Italian reactors after the Chernobyl accident, but was effectively overturned in 2009 when Italy sought France’s assistance to restart its nuclear program in response to high energy costs as well as supply risk with oil and natural gas.

The impact of today’s referendum will not be immediate, however, the Berlusconi government had planned for nuclear energy to produce 25 percent of Italy’s electricity by 2030. Up ten reactors would have been built.

Italy’s long term energy plan will be greatly affected. “The part reserved for renewables will be much bigger," Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani told the press.

Its current renewable energy action plan for 2020 outlines heavy reliance on hydropower, followed by wind and biomass, each taking up a nearly equal share of the mix. Solar and geothermal are the least represented technologies.

“Solar can make an enormous jump,” solar industry group Assosolare said, in the AFP’s report.

Italy’s current plan would make it the fifth most developed renewable energy producer in the EU, according to a March, 2011 report by the European Wind Energy Association.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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