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Italy repeats: no to nuclear

MILAN (Reuters) - Oct 10, 2007

Italy will not reverse its Chernobyl-era ban on nuclear power, its government said on Wednesday.

Instead it urged power companies to focus on renewable energy as part of an effort to combat global climate change.

Calls for a Italian nuclear renaissance have intensified as, with scant domestic energy sources, it seeks to diversify its supplies and trim dependence on fuel imports

"Given that the results of a popular referendum of 1987 cannot be cancelled with a stroke of pen, a nuclear choice is neither safe nor convenient in the short-term," said Alfonso Gianni, undersecretary at the Economic Development Ministry.

Gianni was delivering a statement to the lower chamber of parliament, and cited concerns about high costs of constructing nuclear plants and their decommissioning as well as waste management.

The only exception should be made for a scientific research in a new generation of nuclear reactors -- in which Italian energy groups participate by joining projects abroad, he said.

Gianni said he was surprised by the head of Milan's utility AEM, Giuliano Zuccoli, who earlier on Wednesday called for an immediate restart of one nuclear power station, in northern Italy, and the construction of three new plants.

Supporters of nuclear say it would help to reduce emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) and dependence on costly fossil fuel imports, thus trimming Italian electricity prices, among the highest in Europe.

Italy imports about 80-90 percent of fossil fuels it needs. "We need to dismantle a legend that nuclear energy is expensive and we should let everyone know that plants are safe," Zuccoli told an energy conference.

But Gianni said nuclear energy raises a complex of environmental problems as well as risks of non-peaceful use.

"The main road is the development of renewable energy, in particular, photovoltaic," he said

Italy has approved changes to a law aimed to boost photovoltaic energy which transforms sunlight into power, prompting analysts to forecast that sunny Italy may become Europe's new frontier for solar energy.

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