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Italy’s Lower House of Parliament has passed two motions aimed at reversing Italy’s earlier decision to abandon nuclear energy. The text commits the government to “consider including nuclear power as an alternative and clean source of energy production in the national energy mix” so as to “accelerate Italy’s decarbonisation process.”

The governing majority supported the motions, along with the liberal-democratic Azione-Italia Viva group from the opposition. MPs from the Democratic Party, the Five Star Movement, and the Greens/Left either abstained or voted against them.

The Minister and Deputy Minister for Environment & Energy Security, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin and Vannia Gava, thanked MPs for discussing the issue and providing the government with a clear direction. “We will now discuss [nuclear power] with our European partners and consider, with the utmost attention, how to include it in the national energy mix in the coming decades, with the aim of achieving the decarbonisation goals set by the EU.”

Italy was a leading nuclear power-producing country in the 1960s but chose to phase out all nuclear plants following a referendum in following the Chernobyl disaster. The fourth Berlusconi government attempted to launch a new nuclear power programme but that was also rejected by a referendum in 2011, shortly after the Fukushima accident.

However, energy problems in Europe have prompted a change of heart. The motions’ texts require the executive to “actively participate” in scientific and political initiatives, in Europe and beyond, and to encourage the development and deployment of next-generation nuclear technologies. They called on the government to, among other things, “consider fourth-generation, small modular reactors for nuclear power generation”, to provide incentives for technological research on “innovative nuclear fission reactors” and to “participate actively at European and international level in any appropriate initiative aimed at encouraging the development of new nuclear technologies”. MPs also called for continued commitment to scientific research, training qualified human capital in the field and supporting fusion research.

The government is directed “to evaluate in which territories outside of Italy the production of nuclear energy can satisfy the national need for decarbonised energy and to evaluate the opportunity to promote and favour the development of agreements and international partnerships between national companies and/or public subsidiaries and companies that manage nuclear production in order to be able to meet the aforementioned national needs".

The motions call on the executive to “encourage an objective information campaign, based on scientific rigour, in order to avoid preconceived opposition” and consider compensation to win over the territories where future plants might be built.

Riccardo Zucconi, Secretary of the Presidency of the Chamber said the decision was “a breaking point with the governments of the last 10 years that have not been able to implement energy strategies aimed at energy independence of our nation”. The objective of the motion is to start the production of nuclear energy as early as 2030.

The Minister of the Environment & Energy Security Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, a key signatory of the motion, asserted: “Research and experimentation have made enormous strides in recent decades,” adding that “fourth-generation nuclear power is as safe as it is clean, according to scientists.”

Image: The Italian Parliament in Rome has passed two motions aimed at reversing the country's previous decision to abandon nuclear energy (courtesy of Getty Images)

Date: Wednesday, 17 May 2023
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