Italy votes out nuclear power

Updated On: Jun 15, 2011

The global effects of Fukushima continued Monday, as Italians voted overwhelmingly against Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s efforts to revive the country’s nuclear power program.

Italy had hoped to generate 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030 in order to reduce its reliance on imported oil and natural gas. However, the referendum has forced the government to turn increasingly toward renewable energy sources, as well as up its dependence on foreign oil and gas.

The resounding no to nuclear power has exacerbated Italy’s growing energy security problem, including its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Uprisings in the Arab world, as well as the country’s recent loss of natural gas from Libya, have highlighted the precarious nature of its energy supply chain.

Report & Analysis: Nuclear-free Italy may fire up natural-gas revamp [Wall Street Journal, 15 June 2011]

Berlusconi acknowledged that renewable energy will inevitably become a larger part of Italy’s energy portfolio, as the government looks to increase renewables to about 30 percent. However, hydroelectric power has limited room for growth in Italy, while solar power has yet to become cost-competitive. Wind power is also tricky due to moderate wind speeds and unsuitable sea depths.

“Going over 30 percent for renewable energy can be done, but it will be difficult and expensive,” said Luigi de Paoli, a professor at energy economics at Milan’s Bocconi University.

Report & Analysis: Nuclear vote forces Italy to ponder renewables [AFP, 14 June 2011]

Italy is not alone in its efforts to rein in nuclear ambitions following the Japan meltdown. In May, shortly after the Fukushima incident, Switzerland passed a moratorium on its nuclear reactors, and Germany has accelerated its nuclear phaseout program, pledging to be nuclear-free by 2022.  

Report & Analysis: Italy’s voters scrap nuclear energy [Huffington Post, 13 June 2011]

The outcome of the referendum is also a sign of growing discontent toward Berlusconi, who had asked people not to vote in the referendum. Instead, 57% of Italians voted.

“This was a vote against nuclear energy,” said Giovanni Sartori, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Florence. “But by urging people not to go to the polls, Berlusconi turned this into a vote against himself.”

The Prime Minister’s defeat is the latest in a yearlong series of setbacks and humiliations, in which he has experienced party defects, a sex scandal and a steady dip in poll numbers.

Report & Analysis: Italians vote to abandon nuclear energy [WSJ, 14 June 2011]

Report & Analysis: Italy says no to nuclear power – and to Berlusconi [Time.com, 14 June 2011]

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