Westinghouse looks into Italy

14 May 2010

A conference in Italy has seen strong support for Westinghouse's entry to the emerging Italian nuclear market as well as worries over the continuation of development.


The 12 May conference was organized by EnergyLab, an energy research foundation created by the Lombardy region and some local universities, and took place at the Lower Chamber of the Italian government.


Silvio Bosetti, director of EnergyLab and assistant of the president of utility A2A, said that his organization was "assessing whether we could adopt the Westinghouse AP1000 on the Italian soil." He said one "advantage [of AP1000] is its smaller need for water, thus the possibility to install by a river, not only by the sea." Lombardy is a landlocked region in northern Italy that boasts a population approaching 10 million and a significant part of the country's economic activity.


Gary Shuttleworth, director of international business development at Westinghouse, confirmed mutual interest: "We are putting a great deal of effort to join the Italian nuclear program, contacting all the major European utilities with interests in Italy."


The meeting also saw involvement from Giuliano Locatelli, manager for power projects at Ansaldo Nucleare, who added that his firm could support Westinghouse work in addition to its commitment to Areva's plans with the utility, Enel. Speaking for the Ministry of Economic Development, undersecretary Stefano Saglia said "it's our opinion that both systems have characteristics which are not in contradiction and that are two opportunities which could integrate in Italy."


The conference also saw many participants underline the importance of the Nuclear Safety Agency in defining the criteria and rules, lamenting the delay in its creation. The agency does not yet have a head, although oncologist Umberto Veronesi has been mentioned several times as a possible candidate, and neither has its charter been released despite announcements that this was imminent. "We need the agency to start the licensing process and to evaluate the risks we will face during the construction phase," said Shuttleworth.


Another main issue of discussion was the sudden resignation last week of Italy's most visible nuclear supporter, Minister of Economic Development Claudio Scajola, after allegations of corruption.


Saglia rejected any worries about the Italian commitment to nuclear energy: "It's a concern denied by the direct commitment of the prime minister [Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently minister ad interim for economic development], which has repeated the willingness to speed up the process."


However, a few days ago, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, CEO of Finmeccanica, in an interview at the Financial Times said that the resignation could have some repercussions as Scajola "was strongly committed and was pushing for a revival of a nuclear program in Italy". Berlusconi is yet to announce a new head for the ministry, with this delay partly due to the European crisis over the Greek economy as well as domestic issues.


Reporting by Luciano Lavecchia
for World Nuclear News