- energy - France - Italy - nuclear power
AFP - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a nuclear cooperation accord Tuesday as Italy took a first step toward returning to the use of atomic energy.
The agreement covers research and waste treatment as well as the construction of nuclear power plants.
Officials of the Italian and French power companies ENEL and EDF were to sign a partnership accord to build four third-generation EPR reactors in Italy, according to a source close to the dossier.
The Berlusconi government announced shortly after taking office in May 2008 that it would begin building nuclear power stations to solve the country's dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies.
It said it wanted to lay the first stone for a return to nuclear energy before the end of the current parliament in 2013.
The decision reversed a 20-year ban on nuclear power following a 1987 referendum in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, a year earlier.
The country's four nuclear plants operating at the time were shut down.
Although Italy has suffered occasional power shortages in recent years, due in part to problems with its electricity distribution network, a return to nuclear promises to be long and complicated, not least because of expected political and activist opposition.
Italy depends on foreign sources for 87 percent of its energy needs. Oil accounts for 43 percent and gas 36 percent of its energy use.