Monday, September 13, 2010

Italy needs nuclear energy to grow

Plans are good, now government must act

Giulio_Tremonti(NucNet) The absence of a civil nuclear energy sector is one of the reasons that Italy lacks economic competitiveness, finance minister Giulio Tremonti (right) said last week.

Tremonti told the UK’s Financial Times Sept 5 that Italy has the second largest manufacturing base in Europe after Germany, but does not have civil nuclear power.

“When you calculate rival rates of GDP in different countries, you see what a difference there is between those who have and those who don’t have nuclear power – those who produce energy and those who import it.”

Tremonti conceded that the government must take fresh steps to improve the country’s sluggish growth rate, which remains well behind that of Germany and other leading European Union states as it tries to emerge from the financial crisis.

“The Italian economy must become more competitive,” he said, speaking at the annual Ambrosetti forum in Cernobbio. “The structure of our economy is good. We have got the second largest manufacturing base in Europe after Germany and we’ve got a sound banking system. But we don’t have civil nuclear power.”

In February 2010 Italy moved a step closer to reinstating nuclear energy it abandoned more than 20 years ago in the wake of the Chernobyl accident. In 2010 the government gave final approval to construction of new units.

The policy is designed to pave the way for starting work on new plants in 2013 and production of nuclear power in 2020. Italy plans to build at least four nuclear reactors.

Benefits quantified

calculatorEarlier this week an International Energy Agency-led study said an energy mix that incorporates nuclear is “the most advantageous” for Italy in economic and environmental terms and could save the country up to EUR 69 billion ($88 billion) between 2020 and 2030 compared to a mix that does not include nuclear.

Bloomberg wire service reported the analysis was prepared by expert from the Italian energy company Enel and France's EdF, which last year formed a joint venture to develop nuclear energy in Italy. It was chaired by Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the Paris-based IEA.

The study on nuclear power in Italy concludes that if nuclear accounts for 25% of electricity generation by 2030, Italy will save up to EUR 57 billion in generation costs and up to 381 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

It says introducing nuclear power would reduce and stabilize energy costs and prices, and would improve the energy supply chain resulting in a positive impact on end-users. It would also lead to greater energy security.

Can Italy cut the mustard?

mustardLast February, the European-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said Italy is making progress in energy policy, but challenges remain.

This is European diplomatic talk for “stuff not together yet, keep trying.”

Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said in a press statement in February 2010, that “a common theme that emerges in the IEA review of Italy's energy policy is the difficulties faced by energy infrastructure providers in taking projects from the initial planning phase to completion.”

Tanaka said that “while numerous initiatives have been taken at central and regional government levels in recent years, fundamental problems remain as evidenced by the delays in the construction of new LNG facilities and renewable energy installations.”

“Under present circumstances, it is likely that the recently adopted nuclear energy proposals may face similar obstacles.”

Nonetheless, the new law provides a legislative basis to address concerns in relation to plant sites, waste disposal, risk management and plant decommissioning.

Regulatory framework?

Reuters reported last week that Italy lacks a regulatory framework for its new nuclear reactors. Italy's nuclear power program a regulatory framework by the end of the year, Enel CEO Fulvio Conti said.

"We badly need the government to finish the regulations needed to start using the investments we are making. We hope the government will deliver the laws we need by the end of the year," he said at the Europe House-Ambrosetti business meeting.

Any utility that wants to do business in Italy to build a nuclear reactor needs the certainty of a regulatory framework. Not only are safety issues paramount, the regulations will serve as a buffer against Italy’s chaotic politics.

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