Berlusconi launches nuclear and renewable energy plan

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ROME (AFP) – Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced Saturday the introduction of “a national energy plan” paving the way for a controversial return to nuclear energy, ANSA news agency reported.

“From now until next spring, the government will present a national energy plan,” he said at the opening of an off-shore regasification unit in northeast Rovigo, adding that it will see “the launch of nuclear and renewable energy.”

A month after Berlusconi returned to power in April, the Italian government said it would begin building nuclear power stations to solve the country’s dependence on foreign oil and gas supplies.

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.

Berlusconi said the new energy plan will allow Italy to lower “the cost of its energy” to the level of other European countries, adding that Britain and France will help it construct the new nuclear power stations.

In May the government announced it wanted to lay the first stone for a return to nuclear energy before the end of the current parliament in 2013.

Although Italy has suffered occasional power shortages in recent years, due in part to problems with its electricity distribution network, a return to the nuclear option 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.

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