Italy Follows Germany in Saying “No” to Nuclear Power

Italy on Monday overwhelmingly voted to abandon nuclear power after Germany’s cabinet last week backed a controversial policy to shutter that country’s nuclear plants by 2022.

About 57% of Italians voted against reviving the nation’s nuclear power sector. Voters also overturned three other proposed laws, including those that would have privatized Italy’s water supply and given top government officials immunity from prosecution.

In 1987, the Italian public overwhelmingly voted to reject nuclear energy after the Chernobyl disaster, and its government in April scrapped plans for a new referendum to win public support for reactors that were to be built by Italian utility Enel and France’s EDF starting in 2013. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had said he hoped the country would revive the plans within a year or two after more clarity was gained on the technology.

Last week, Germany’s Cabinet signed off on a bill to phase out nuclear power by 2022. Operations of eight reactors in that country have already been suspended following the March crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. The bill will shutter the nine remaining reactors between 2015 and 2022.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose abrupt reversal of nuclear policy has been decried by some of the nation’s biggest energy companies, had previously said six reactors would be shut down in 2021 and three of the most modern in 2022. In September 2010, Merkel had led the charge to extend the lifespans of the country’s 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them operating until 2035.

The bill passed by the German Cabinet last week includes replacing 22% of the country’s generation capacity—previously met by nuclear power—with new coal and gas plants, expanding the production of power with renewables, improving the nation’s grids, and implementing energy efficiency initiatives.

Reuters reported that the government has dropped plans to further cut incentives for photovoltaic solar power. Both chambers of Germany’s parliament will have to agree on the country’s energy strategy by July.

Sources: POWERnews, POWER, Reuters

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