Details soon on Italian program

28 August 2009

Italy should have locations for its new nuclear plants within six months, a Finnish-style consortium approach is likely for financing and a cooperation deal with the USA is forthcoming.


Italy's minister of economic development, Claudio Scajola, explained some of the government's vision of a nuclear Italy.


Speaking to the CEOs of the major Italian utilities, Scajola specified that a new nuclear authority will be set up and begin its work in December. Moves towards this include the dismantling of Sogin, the decommissioning authority. On 12 August Francesco Mazzuca replaced Massimo Romano as head of Sogin with a brief to liquidate it so that its assets could be incorporated into a new public-private entity. Engineering firm Ansaldo Nucleare is seen as a potential source of expertise for the new authority.


According to Scajola, Italy would like to become a 'European energy hub'. He was referring to the government's diversification strategy including gas pipelines, liquid natural gas and nuclear power.


Sviluppo Nucleare Italia, the joint venture of Enel and Edf, will lead the new nuclear renaissance in Italy - probably through a Mankala-type approach in which a consortium of consumers and suppliers which will share the financial burden in exchange for fixed contracts for cheaper energy. The idea is similar to that employed by Teollisuuden Voima Oyj in Finland. During the meeting, Enel CEO Fulvio Conti invited the competitors 'to invest together with us, in order to have a quota' even though he clarified that Enel would not take leadership roles in the new reactor projects.


As usual, Scajola painted a picture of the fragile Italian system: Italy imports more than 86% of its energy (including coal, oil and gas), at a cost of '30-33% above the European average.' He depicted the government plan for the energy supply: 50% of energy will be provided by fossil fuels, 25% from renewables and 25% from nuclear energy. This implies more than 13,000 MWe of nuclear energy, of which 6600 MWe would come from the four Areva EPRs planned by Enel and EdF and an equivalent amount from another nuclear initiative.


Other commercial options could include utility Edison, which has said it would be interested to join Enel and EdF, while Enel also has signed memoranda with Rosatom of Russia. EOn of Germany has said it would like to take leading roles in new Italian nuclear projects. Scajola also said that a nuclear cooperation deal with the USA would be signed off in the next two weeks, opening the door to a range of different technologies and partners.


On 9 July the Italian Senate approved the development bill already approved by the lower chamber, which carried legislation for the building of new reactors. According to the Italian system, both the Senate and the lower chamber have to approve the same text in order to become law. As this bill was very urgent the government pushed the Senate to approve without further modifications.


Scajola is pushing forward to start the construction of the first new nuclear power plant before the end of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's mandate in mid 2013.