Italy sees role for nuclear in hitting climate goals, says minister

29 April 2024

Italian Energy Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin said he hopes there can be a discussion based on science about the renewed role of nuclear, specifically small modular reactors, in the country's future.

(Image: Screengrab from Atlantic Council TV/Youtube)

Pichetto was speaking at an Atlantic Council event on The role of nuclear in the energy transition, on Sunday, ahead of the G7 ministerial meeting taking place in Italy at which he is heading the energy ministers' talks.

He said that Italy currently gets one-third of its energy from renewables and two-thirds from fossil fuels, and it had the aim of reversing those proportions by 2030. But he also said that "we must consider the use of nuclear in the short and medium term" because its contribution would help meet the 2050 net-zero target.

The minister said he was specifically talking about small modular reactors (SMRs) and referenced the research and development funding the government had put into both their development and into nuclear fusion. He also noted the countries which, at COP28, had backed the goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity.

Pichetto, who spoke in Italian with a translator summarising his words in English, said that as well as the environmental benefits of new nuclear power, it would also help "to shield" Italy from the impact of geopolitical events. It was also confirmed that Italy is taking part in the European industrial alliance to develop SMRs. The minister added that he hoped Italy could have a "constructive and scientific discussion and not an ideological one" on the nuclear energy subject.

Italy operated a total of four nuclear power plants starting in the early 1960s but decided to phase out nuclear power in a referendum that followed the 1986 Chernobyl accident. It closed its last two operating plants, Caorso and Trino Vercellese, in 1990.

In late March 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Italian government approved a moratorium of at least one year on construction of nuclear power plants in the country, which had been looking to restart its long-abandoned nuclear programme.

The public mood has changed since then, and in May 2023, the Italian Parliament approved a motion to urge the government to consider incorporating nuclear power into the country's energy mix. In September, the first meeting was held of the National Platform for a Sustainable Nuclear, set up by the government to define a time frame for the possible resumption of nuclear energy in Italy and identify opportunities for the country's industrial chain already operating in the sector.

There are a variety of emerging plans for nuclear energy in Italy, including Edison last October announcing its ambition to construct two nuclear power plants based on EDF's SMR technology between 2030 and 2040 "if the conditions are created for its return to Italy".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News