ROME Feb 24 Italian utility Enel (ENEI.MI) said on Tuesday it had agreed with French power giant EDF (EDF.PA) to study the feasibility of building four nuclear plants in Italy and to extend Enel's involvement in France's nuclear programme.
The memorandum of understanding was part of an Italo-French pact on nuclear power cooperation signed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Nicolas Sarkozy during a bilateral summit in Rome, Enel said in a statement.
The two companies will set up a 50-50 joint venture for the feasibility study then, once Italy passes a new law authorising construction of new plants -- suspended by a 1987 referendum -- they would set up holding companies to build four new plants. Enel officials said the Italians would have a 60 percent stake and EDF 40 percent in each holding company, with both allowed to sell on shares to third parties as long as they jointly keep a controlling stake of at least 51 percent.
The first new Italian plant is expected to be operative in 2020, said one Enel official.
Enel owns a 12.5 percent stake in France's first European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), or improved third-generation plant, which is being built at Flamanville in northwest France and will be operated by EDF.
Enel also signed an agreement expressing its interest in extending its participation in France's nuclear programme, as part of a previous accord with EDF, on building five more EPR plants including one recently authorised at Penly.
An Enel spokeswoman said the deal signed in Rome meant Enel would be exercising its option for 12.5 percent stake in Penly.
With the cost of building such a reactor running at about 4 billion euros, Enel's investment in Penly would be worth around 500 million euros.
(Reporting by Deepa Babington; writing by Stephen Brown)
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