Italy plays down safety concerns on planned nuclear plants

7th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government announced shortly after taking office last year that it would begin building nuclear power stations to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies.

Milan -- Italy's development minister on Thursday played down safety concerns over leading-edge nuclear reactors that Rome plans to import as it relaunches its long mothballed atomic energy programme.

The concerns over the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) expressed by British, French and Finnish experts on Monday "will not slow our progress," Italian dailies quoted Development Minister Claudio Scajola as saying.

The nuclear safety bodies of Britain, France and Finland issued strong reservations about the control system for the EPR, developed by Areva, which is controlled by the French state, and German group Siemens.

They warned that the operating system was not sufficiently independent of the safety system that would be used in any emergency and urged users and manufacturers to "improve the EPR's initial conception."

Scajola said however: "Between now and the start of construction (of Italian power stations), there will be the authorisation phase, which will last three or four years (and so) when we begin construction, we will be in an ideal position with all the best technologies at our disposal."

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon also joined the debate, insisting on Thursday that the EPR reactor is sound.

Fillon told the French daily Le Monde: "It is necessary for there to be extreme rigour in terms of safety. I have no doubt that the problems raised by the safety authority will be resolved and that French reactors will rank among the best and the safest in the world."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government announced shortly after taking office in May 2008 that it would begin building nuclear power stations to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies.

The ban on nuclear power followed a 1987 referendum in the aftermath of the Soviet nuclear disaster in Chernobyl a year earlier.

France's EDF and Italy's Enel in August created the joint venture Sviluppo Nucleare Italia to build four EPRs in Italy.

Italy's first nuclear plants since the ban are scheduled to be operational by 2018, and the government has set a target of producing one-quarter of its power needs through nuclear energy by 2030.

It plans to build up to 10 nuclear power plants.

AFP/Expatica

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