Italian and Russian cooperation shapes up

09 April 2009

Among a series of energy-related agreements signed recently between Russian and Italian companies is a quadrilateral agreement to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy.
 
The deals were reached on 7 April during a visit to Moscow of a delegation of representatives from Italian companies. During the trade mission, a memorandum of cooperation in nuclear energy was signed between AtomStroyExport (ASE) - responsible for the construction of Russian-designed reactors overseas - and power exporter Inter RAO UES with Italy's Eni Power and engineering group Finmeccanica.
 
Under the agreement, the companies will develop their cooperation in exchanging experience and knowledge in the field of project management, constructing nuclear power plants based on Russian-designed reactors, conducting research and developing new nuclear power technologies.
 
ASE said that the memorandum "demonstrates the commitment of the key players of the Italian energy sector to develop long-term partnership with the leading Russian companies building NPPs abroad, including cooperation with industrial and financial partners."
 
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in March 2007 by Italy's Enel and Russia's Rosatom to cooperate on new nuclear power plants. The MoU would see the two cooperate on nuclear power projects in third countries, thought to be most likely in central and Eastern Europe. Cooperation on manufacturing components for nuclear plants and on joint control of power grids was also mentioned.
 
Italy's economic minister, Claudio Scajola, held meetings in July 2008 with energy minister and former ASE president Sergei Shmatko, with the Russian ministry saying their talks had set priorities for their countries' cooperation in gas, electricity and nuclear power generation.
 
In February, a new agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy was concluded between Italy and France. An immediate commercial aspect to cooperation was represented by two deals between Electricité de France (EdF) and Enel. Firstly, the two will form a 50/50 partnership to conduct feasibility studies towards "at least four EPRs in Italy." The second deal will see Enel take a 12.5% stake in the new reactor to be constructed at Penly.
 
Following a referendum in November 1987, provoked by the Chernobyl accident 18 months earlier, work on Italy's nuclear program was largely stopped. In 1988, the government resolved to halt all nuclear construction, shut the remaining reactors and decommission them from 1990. As well as the operating plants, two new boiling water reactors were almost complete and six locally-designed pressurized water reactor units were planned.
 
This situation was reversed by the general election of May 2008, when Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party put a return to nuclear energy in its manifesto.
 
Energy deals
 
Separately in Moscow, Italian energy giant Eni signed an agreement sell back to gas giant Gazprom a 20% stake in its oil arm, Gazprom Neft. It also signed several cooperation agreements in Russia and abroad with the main Russian energy companies (Inter RAO UES, Rosneft, Transneft and Stroytransgas), with whom it said it will start a wide program of strategic cooperation involving different activities in the energy field.
 
In particular, Eni Power and Inter RAO UES signed an agreement to evaluate joint projects in Russia and third countries. Additionally, Eni signed with Rosneft a protocol of cooperation in the upstream and refining sector in Russia and abroad.
 
These agreements, Eni said, will further foster ties between Italy and Russia and will significantly strengthen security of gas supplies to Italy and Europe.
 

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