ROME, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Italy has moved a step closer to reviving nuclear energy, abandoned 22 years ago, after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a decree setting criteria to select sites for new nuclear plants.
Italy is the only member of the Group of Eight industrialised nations without nuclear power after it was banned by a public vote in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
But Silvio Berlusconi’s government now aims to rebuild the sector and produce 25 percent of power from nuclear plants.
Nuclear power will help cut electricity prices in Italy by at least 30 percent, ensure large scale and secure energy supplies with zero carbon emissions, Economic Development Minister Claudio Scajola, a key supporter of nuclear renaissance in Italy, said in a statement.
The decree, which is pending approval from parliament committees and final government approval, sets criteria to pick sites for nuclear plants and fuel and waste deposits as well as procedures for construction and operation of plants, the ministry said in the statement.
It sets a system of financial compensation for areas that agree to host nuclear stations and waste deposits. Companies building the plants will make the compensation payments, the ministry said.
For example, administrative areas get 3,000 euros ($4,292) per megawatt of nuclear plant capacity during every year of a plant’s construction and 0.40 euro per each MW/hour of produced power once the nuclear station comes on stream.
Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, with local authorities having a crucial say in the approval of industrial projects. Several Italian regions have already said they did not want to host nuclear plants. Under a multi-stage approval procedure foreseen by the decree, the government appears to be given greater decisive powers in the event of failing to agree with local authorities, according to slides on the ministry web site.
Once the decree gets final approval, the government has three months to adopt a new nuclear strategy outlining strategic targets, the ministry said. Interested parties are then expected to formalise their proposals to build stations, it said.
Italy’s biggest utility Enel EBEI.MI and France’s nuclear giant EDF (EDF.PA) have plans to construct four nuclear plants in Italy. (Writing by Svetlana Kovalyova, editing by Anthony Barker)