Italy Halts Nuclear Programme

Italy’s Senate on Wednesday approved a proposal to halt plans to return to nuclear power following the disaster in Japan, as a top minister said Rome would seek guidance from the European Union on the way forward.

The government’s proposal to block plans to build nuclear power stations was approved over a “No” vote from the opposition Democratic and Italy of Values parties and will now go to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval.

Italy’s opposition is against nuclear power but has criticised the government for what critics say is a measure that will only suspend the nuclear programme temporarily and is aimed at undermining an upcoming referendum.

Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani said Italy would reconsider nuclear power “when Europe as a whole takes decisions shared by all countries,” referring to planned “stress tests” on European nuclear power stations.

“Fukushima has shown us that major accidents are possible. I don’t say that voluntarily, having said that I was and remain pro-nuclear,” ,” Romani said in a newspaper interview. “Nuclear power is not culturally acceptable at the moment.”

Romani also said that as a result of the proposed halt the referendum on nuclear power proposed by the opposition, set for June, was no longer needed.

He said Italy would set out a 20-year energy strategy later this year.

The Italy of Values party which proposed the referendum amid widespread public opposition to nuclear power accused the government of trying to ensure that an insufficient number of voters turn out if the vote goes ahead.

Italy abandoned nuclear power after a referendum in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster but Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, while campaigning in 2008 elections, promised to bring it back as a way of cutting bills and lowering Italy’s energy dependence.

Berlusconi had opened the way to construction of atomic power stations from 2014 despite opinion polls showing that a majority of Italians opposed nuclear energy.

But as the extent of Japan’s nuclear crisis became clear following the earthquake and tsunami, Italy declared a one-year moratorium on nuclear power.

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