Albania looks to nuclear to power region

12 November 2007

Albania has proposed the construction of a nuclear power plant, not only to meet its own energy demands, but also to export electricity to neighbouring Balkan countries and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. 

Albania has suffered energy shortages over recent months due to a drought that has hit the country's hydroelectric power plants, its main source of electricity. Authorities have had to ration electricity to an average of four hours per day, introduce power cuts for consumers and state institutions and order many companies to work at night when power consumption is lower.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha, speaking at an Italian-Albanian business conference in Tirana, said "our main goal is to make Albania an energy superpower in the region." He said that he had called on legal experts to "prepare a legal framework" for the introduction of nuclear energy in Albania. He added, "I am convinced that nuclear energy is the most stable and the cleanest sort of energy."

According to Berisha, plans envisage the construction of a plant at Durres and have drawn interest from a number of potential partners.

Berisha said that Albania will call on the governments of neighbouring countries for their support. The Balkan states were vocal opponents to the closure of units 3 and 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria as the plants provided electricity to the whole region. The two units shut at the end of 2006 as a condition of Bulgaria's entry into the European Union (EU).

Albania's plan, while meeting opposition from nearby Greece, has reportedly drawn interest from Italy, which following a referendum in 1987 has phased out its own use of nuclear energy. Under a proposal, the Albanian nuclear power plant could provide Italy with electricity via an underwater cable. According to La Stampa newspaper, talks have already been held with Italian grid operator Terna on linking the Italian and Albanian electricity networks.

Meanwhile, Umberto Quadrino, chief executive of Italian utility Edison has said that an EU decision is needed to start reconsidering the possibility of once again using nuclear power in Italy. He told La Repubblica newspaper that "a European program that studies [nuclear power's] real costs, including long-term such as decommissioning and radioactive waste management, is needed."

Further information

WNA's Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries information paper
 Nuclear Energy in Italy information paper

 Italy slowly reopens doors to nuclear power
WNN: Balkan states call for Kozloduy restarts