Italian Minister of the Environment and Energy Security Gilberto Pichetto says Italy will be returning to nuclear energy. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO


Italy ‘aims to return to nuclear power by end of current legislative term’

Italy's Minister of the Environment and Energy Security Gilberto Pichetto has indicated Rome's readiness to reconsider nuclear energy


Italy’s Minister of the Environment and Energy Security Gilberto Pichetto has indicated Rome’s readiness to reconsider nuclear energy.

On May 2, Pichetto told Italian national station Radio 24 that the Government aimed to pass the necessary laws so that, by the end of the current legislative term, the country would be ready to reintroduce nuclear power.

Italy is in particular working to build a legal framework for the deployment of small modular reactors (SMR).

“I’m doing my best. That is the mandate of the Government and Parliament. I am working with a working group that has to deal with the legal framework,” Pichetto said.

“If you want to buy a small modular reactor, there must be a compatible legal framework. We are moving in this direction.”

As yet, there are no such small modular reactors anywhere in the world.

“It’s two, three, four years – the product is not there yet,” Pichetto said.

“There is talk of having the production conditions of these small reactors in place at the end of this decade. It means that in this legislature we have to have everything in place.”

The minister pointed to newcleo, an Italian company working on the design of SMRs.

Pichetto described it as “the most advanced company” in the sector, because it is developing so-called lead-cooled fast reactors, while others abroad still work on water-cooled modules.

The Italian company was already operating with the Italian Government to develop safe, reliable, sustainable small-scale nuclear systems to be deployed outside of Italy, in other nuclear-friendly countries.

Italy is now reportedly planning to have experiments with small modular reactor boxes undertaken in Brasimone in Emilia, according to Italian daily Il Giornale.

The country is among the few nations in the world to have completely abandoned nuclear power after having used it since the 1960s.

Following the Chernobyl accident in 1987 and the subsequent referendum on atomic energy, Italy shut down its nuclear facilities in 1990.

In an effort to reverse the decision, the then-government in 2008 declared the phase-out of nuclear power to be a “terrible mistake, the cost of which totalled over €50 billion” and planned to build 10 new nuclear reactors, which would be able to provide about one-quarter of Italy’s total electricity supply.

But, after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, where radioactive contaminants were released into the environment, some countries, including Italy, showed strong anti-nuclear sentiments.

As a result, the Italian government put a one-year moratorium on plans to revive nuclear power, despite there having been no reported adverse health effects among Fukushima residents or power-station workers directly linked to radiation exposure from the accident.

In June 2011, a referendum was held on the matter, in which 94 per cent of voters chose in favour of a construction ban.

Now, in search of clean, emission-free and reliable energy production, Italy’s current right-wing Government wants to reverse course.

In particular, the low-carbon footprint and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet European and international targets are cited as the main reasons for the shift.

Moreover, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent need for alternatives to Russian gas, Italy found itself heavily reliant on other imports.

In March, The Observatory on Italian Public Accounts reported that Russian gas imports towards Italy were almost wiped out, falling from 30 billion cubic meters in 2019, 40 per cent of that year’s gas consumption, to 2.9 billion or about 5 per cent of 2023 consumption.

Reducing Russian gas imports to zero by this year seems an achievable goal, according to the observatory.