Sunday, October 26, 2008

Italy's nuclear course correction

An official 'mea culpa' puts the cost of not having nuclear energy at 50 billion euros ($63B)

course correction In the next two decades Italy is planning to get 25% of its electricity from nuclear energy, 25% from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and the remainder from fossil (coal & natural gas).

This mix is a complete reversal from that country's decision two decades ago to walk away from nuclear energy and dismantle its reactors. The cost of not having the nuclear plants was pegged this week at $50 billion euros, and for those of you counting zeros, that is indeed the "B" number which is 1,000 million.

ScajolaWorld Nuclear News reports that Claudio Scajola (right), Italy's Minister for economic development, said that the new Berlusconi government is intent on "reversing a terrible mistake" in phasing out nuclear power following the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine. The Italian populace panicked and voted in 1987 to shut down its nuclear plants. (Photo: World Nuclear News)

Now Italy's costs for electricity are one-third higher on average than any other country in western Europe. The country depends on natural gas for 60% of its energy and most of it is imported.

Energy independence for Italy

Scajola says the goal of investing in nuclear energy is to develop energy independence for Italy and to meet the challenges of global warming. The most practical objective, he said, is to begin construction of a new reactor, the first of several government funding and private utility efforts, by 2013.

He also said that the current legislature will be charged with setting up a legal, regulatory, and technical framework to handle the licensing and oversight of new reactors. A new government agency will be responsible for site and technology selection as well as strategies for eventual decommissioning and management of spent nuclear fuel.

Italy's reversal of policy on nuclear energy now leaves only Germany's Andrea Merkel with an officially sanctioned anti-nuclear energy policy. That situation is in flux and elections in September 2009 may hinge on energy policy with the voters.

EDF to build Italy's nukes

Reuters reports that France's EDF, the world's biggest nuclear power utility will help revive nuclear energy in Italy EDF Italia head Bruno D'Onghia said this week.

'If Italy opens up for the nuclear option then EDF, directly or via Edison, will cooperate for the success of a true Italian nuclear program."

Sergio Orlandi, engineering director at Italian company Ansaldo Nucleare, told an energy conference Italy needs at least 10,000 megawatt of nuclear plants. It would cover 17% of Italy's estimated power demand by 2020, he said.

Taking his numbers at face value, 10,000 MW would be equal to six Areva EPRs. Scajoa called for 10 of them in a speech to the OECD last week. At 17% of Italy's power needs, the country's total requirements would be approximately 58,800 MW. Assuming the government keeps to the formula for energy sources stated by Scajola, that would drive investments in renewable sources for 14,700 MW. That outcome would make Italy one of the greenest energy producing states in Europe.

solar panelHere's an idea, why not co-locate solar panels at nuclear power plant sites? There's plenty of land for the buffer area and the transmission grid will already be in place. It could be called "Solar Kinetic Lighting at Reactor."

Reuters also reports that supporters of the nuclear renaissance in Italy say the credit crunch and economic slowdown are likely to delay an ambitious plan to build new nuclear stations.

Giancarlo Aquilanti, director of nuclear programs at Enel, Italy's biggest utility, said it will be more difficult for utility's like Enel to raise money for nuclear plants in the current financial climate. His timeline suggests a private investment effort to begin construction in 2017 assuming the government has all the policy and regulatory mechanisms in place by 2012. Construction of the plant would take five-to-six years with entry to revenue service in 2023.

# # #

No comments: