Sunday, December 16, 2007

Enel ready and waiting for Italian new build

06 December 2007

Italy is facing a worsening energy shortfall but the country's largest utility, Enel, is ready to build new nuclear plants and just waiting for the political go-ahead, according to its CEO.

Fulvio Conti told a parliamentary hearing: "We are ready and have the necessary competences [to build nuclear units]. We're waiting for the political decision." He said it would take 7-8 years to build a new plant, allowing 3 years for planning and 4-5 years for construction.

Although Italy permanently shut down its nuclear reactors at the end of the 1980s it has a long history of nuclear power. In the 1960s it was one of the world's nuclear energy leaders with the highest installed generating capacity among countries without nuclear weapons programs. Following a 1987 referendum, provoked by the Chernobyl accident 18 months earlier, the Italian government resolved to halt all nuclear construction and shut and decommission its existing reactors. Nevertheless, Italy still obtains over 10% of its electricity from imported nuclear power, and Enel recently signed up to take 12.5% of the output from France's new Flamanville 3 reactor, which has just begun construction. There are now signs that a revival of nuclear power is under consideration in Italy, with members of parliament from different ends of the political spectrum voicing their support for nuclear.

In a separate interview with the Financial Times prior to signing the Flamanville deal, Conti warned that Italy is facing a looming energy shortfall. The country relies heavily on gas for its electricity generation, but in January 2006 record consumption saw it reach the limit of capacity, taking the maximum possible from imports, storage and its small local production. Thanks to a "bureaucratic shambles between ministries", the country now has less gas storage facilities and is actually in a worse situation, Conti alleged. "How can a G8 country not resolve this?" he asked.

Italian waste bound for USA?

Some low-level radioactive waste - mostly paper, plastic, wood and metal - from the decommissioning of Italy's shut-down nuclear power plants could be on its way to the USA for treatment under a licence application submitted in September by US fuel cycle company EnergySolutions. The proposal would reportedly see the Utah-based company import 20,000 tons of low-level waste (LLW) for incineration and metal recycling at its processing facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. About 8% of the total imported material would ultimately be disposed of at the company's Utah disposal site.

The company plans to import some 200,000 cubic feet (about 5664 cubic metres) of waste annually for five years from 2008. The company filed its import application on 14 September but review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) could take up to six months.

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