Italy seeks nuclear power revival with French help
ROME Feb 24 (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi's government wants Italy to overcome a two decades-old taboo on nuclear power and start building plants to ensure clean and secure energy sources, it said on Tuesday ahead of a nuclear deal with France.
Volatility in oil prices and the clash between Russia and Ukraine over gas pipelines has highlighted how risky Europe's energy sources can be, making nuclear power -- with virtually zero carbon dioxide emissions -- a more attractive option.
Italy's centre-right government, which has been talking about new capacity despite a 1987 referendum suspending building new nuclear plants in Italy after the Chernobyl disaster, said Italy needed to secure its own clean energy supplies.
"In coming years we must lay the first stone of a safe and clean Italian nuclear plant," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told local television. "Nuclear power is an important source of energy supply for Italy."
As French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Berlusconi held a bilateral summit due to produce a deal on nuclear cooperation, Frattini said Italy wanted to take advantage of France's "very advanced technology and experience in the subject".
Sweden, which had voted to phase out nuclear power in a 1980 referendum, now plans to lift the ban and Britain is drawing up plans to revive its nuclear plants.
Italy's plans may face political resistance, but Berlusconi has a strong parliamentary majority and the main centre-left opposition is on its knees after recent election defeats.
"The time scale on nuclear power stations will be long but the important thing is to give the green light," Berlusconi's spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti told reporters on Tuesday.
Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said on Monday Italy and France would sign an accord on "all aspects of nuclear power, from cooperation at the European level to security, technological cooperation, training, decommissioning and industrial cooperation in other countries".
Scajola says Italy needs eight to 10 European Pressurized Reactors (EPR), known as improved third-generation plants.
But analysts ask how utilities would fund this and what delays might arise from wrangling over whether the sector would be overseen by an independent regulator or a government agency.
The Italian and French media said the cooperation pact would involve Italy's dominant power utility, Enel (ENEI.MI), taking a 12.5 percent stake in France's second EPR reactor.
Enel already owns a 12.5 percent stake in France's first EPR which is being built at Flamanville in northwest France and will be operated by French power giant EDF (EDF.PA).
In turn, EDF could take part in a joint venture with Enel in Italy to build a nuclear plant.
Sarkozy told Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview published on Tuesday that EDF and Enel "will constitute two components of the trans-Alpine energy axis we're launching". (Writing by Stephen Brown; editing by Sue Thomas)
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