February 26, 2009
France and Italy have signed an agreement on closer cooperation in the nuclear field. It will allow Italy to benefit from long French experience and accelerate its return to nuclear power generation after Chernobyl in 1986.
But it will take until 2020, before any of the new reactors planned to be built jointly with EDF will be on the grid. The planning and authorisation procedures are long and sometimes complex, and building a reactor is not a matter of months either, as the industry realises presently in Finland. It is therefore the more important for all energy operators – governments and utilities – to plan in terms of decades rather than years!
For Italy, this is an important step. It will make Italy a bit less dependent on imported oil and gas and help it reduce C02 emissions by 20 percent until 2020, as it is committed to under the EU climate package. For a country benefiting from the Mediterranean climate, its per capita C02 emissions are far too high, almost 8 tons per year, compared to only 6 tons in France.
Unlike Spain, Italy had too long neglected the development of solar and wind energy. But it has stepped up efforts more recently. With an installed capacity of 4 GW at the end of 2008, Italy has become one of the leading players in wind energy.
With Sweden and Italy reversing their line on nuclear power it becomes more likely that Germany will sooner or later follow suit. There is less urgency as the phasing out of its existing nuclear capacities will go on beyond 2020. But after the elections in September a new German government might wish to send it clear signal to the industry that nuclear power will remain an alternative to coal carbon capture & storage and wind energy.
These perspectives make it urgent for the European Commission to tackle the “forgotten issue” of permanent storage of nuclear waste. The EU would act irresponsibly if it failed to tackle this delicate and costly issue collectively.Author : Eberhard Rhein