The parties for and against the return of nuclear power to Italy

The parties for and against the return of nuclear power to Italy

Until a few years ago, I need not talk about it. Nuclear power would have remained outside the door of the electoral programs of the Italian parties. Since Italy’s divorce from the atom in the 1987 referendum, conditioned by the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear energy has become a taboo in the national public debate. Suffice it to say that after more than thirty years we still have not found a definitive home to the waste and upon the presentation of a provisional list of candidate sites, a unanimous chorus of no has been triggered.

However, an increasingly serious climate crisis, the need to cut emissions, the push for electrification, the stop to Russian gas and skyrocketing energy prices have forcefully brought nuclear power back onto the scene. Also pushed by the green light of the European Commission, which has included it with gas among the investments deemed adequate to support the energy transition.

To read the programs for the elections on September 25th, the alignments are soon made : yes to the atom from the right and from the center pole (Italia Viva and Action), no from the center-left and the 5 Star Movement. Some parties, such as Lega and Possibile, refer to the theses of the International Energy Agency (Iea). The international organization, born in 1974 after the oil shocks to coordinate policies on the subject, has recently addressed the role of nuclear power in the mix to be adopted to eliminate emissions in the next thirty years, in two studies, one in October 2021. , Net Zero by 2050, and a second one released in June, focused on the atom.

What the International Energy Agency says What the parties are proposing The hot autumn of Italian nuclear waste Between the Sogin commissioner, that the atomic decommissioning company, and government fibrillations, pay attention to the next steps on choosing the place to build the nuclear waste repository. In September, the opinion of the National Inspectorate on suitable areas What the International Energy Agency says Today 32 countries have the atom among their energy sources. According to the IEA, “nuclear power makes a significant contribution to the zero emissions scenario”, that is the recipe to be adopted to keep the temperature increase within 1.5 ° compared to pre-industrial levels. If fossil fuels are out of this scenario, renewables take the lion's share. And nuclear power? There is, but in advanced economies it will count less: it will increase from 18% of contribution to total energy production in 2020 to 10% in 2050. Plant growth will be concentrated "in emerging markets and developing economies, especially in the form of large reactors ". In any case, the Iea that in 2050, while doubling production, the atom will weigh 8%.

For the Iea "hydroelectric and nuclear, currently the two most important sources of low-emission electricity, they offer a fundamental basis for the transition ”. The agency estimates that the second each year helps to reduce 1,500 tons of emissions and 180 billion cubic meters of gas. So you have to decide what to do: yes or no to nuclear power? Proceeding costs, because, writing the IEA, unloads the burden on the two tow horses of the future mix, solar and wind. Without new power plants and reactors kept in operation in the most advanced economies and an acceleration of construction in developing countries, 2,400 GW of solar and wind power need to be added for a zero-emission scenario, ie “well beyond combined production capacity in 2020 ”, Writes the IEA, according to which renewables“ must be accompanied by programmable resources ”.

If you decide to do nuclear power, the IEA suggests taking various factors into account. First: if you have existing reactors, extend their operation to save costs. Today, 63% of active plants are over 30 years old and in advanced economies it is expected that a third will retire by 2030. A problem that does not arise for Italy, since it turned them off decades ago. Second: if you build, do it quickly and within budget. According to the World Nuclear Association, an industry association, 55 reactors are under development. Most are concentrated in Russia and China. We are moving slowly on nuclear power and if we want to focus on the zero emissions scenario, the agency imagines an annual rate of 24 gigawatts (GW) of new production from 2030, against a trend that today stands at an average of 6 GW. Third: clear agreements, long friendship. Governments must adopt dedicated policies and finance investments for the development of new technologies.

The Iea often mentions small modular reactors (Smr), which have more accessible production times and costs than previous generations. The experimental projects are now on the launch pad. China plans to launch one in 2026, in the United States it looks to 2029. As The Economist tells us, SMRs are attracting investments, although some observers are wondering if they can pay back the costs given the lower energy production. In any case, the Iea stresses that to be competitive, nuclear power must cost less, reaching an average of 5 thousand dollars per kilowatt (kW) by 2030. Overall, the agency notes that net of overdue projects, costs are rising. and security concerns after the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan, the wind changed. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida himself reopened to the hypothesis of building new power plants.

Nuclear fusion is the new terrain of conquest of Bezos, Gates & co. More and more leading names in the technological world are investing in the sector in the hope of obtaining clean and unlimited energy What the parties propose Let's see how the parties are positioned on nuclear power (the list includes those who have published the program and will be updated based on availability programs in the future):

League Center-Right Action-Italy Viva Democratic Party 5 Star Green Movement-Italian Left More Europe People's Union Possible League The secretary of the Lega Matteo Salvini has long spoken out in favor of a return to nuclear power. Going so far as to say that he wants to open a power plant in the Milanese district of Baggio and that he knows about 100 plants under construction in the world (figure resized by the Political Pagella). The Lega is the party that devotes the most space in its program to the atom. He mentions the IEA studies and also cites a 2021 report by the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE), according to which nuclear "is the absolute source characterized by the lowest carbon intensity". In fact, UNECE recognizes that the atom in the last 50 years has contributed to avoiding the emission of 74 billion tons of CO 2 into the atmosphere. Someone, however, did better: hydroelectricity.

The League proposes to "rebuild" in Italy "a national industrial nuclear supply chain", but does not specify whether with specific subsidies and with what capital, to "support technological research on the latest generation nuclear fission reactors and Smr, as well as fusion ", relaunch university courses on the atom, participate in international research projects (where Italy is already present, as in the case of the experimental reactor for the Iter merger). The League also supports agreements between Italian and international companies to build new reactors or for the "redevelopment of existing nuclear power plants", which are however being decommissioned. Nor is it said where the future power plants will be located (apart from Baggio, of course)

Finally, Salvini's party mentions the national waste deposit. To find a site, the League proposes to "change the criteria for the recognition of territorial compensation that must start immediately" and not from when the work comes into operation. To speed up the process, however, it is first necessary to publish the final list of sites that have the credentials to host the deposit. An act on the desk of the outgoing government, which it could approve with due political consent. League included.

Center-right The general program of the center-right (Brothers of Italy, Lega, Forza Italia and Noi moderati) mentions nuclear power in chapter 11, The challenge for energy self-sufficiency. We read that the "use of energy production through the creation of latest generation plants without vetoes and preconceptions is evaluated, also evaluating the use of clean and safe nuclear power". The formulation is vague, both in the classification of atom technologies and in the objectives to be pursued. It is necessary to wait for the publication of the programs of the coalition parties in addition to the League to assess whether the positions coincide with those of the Carroccio.

Action-Italia Viva The position of the center alliance of Carlo Calenda and Matteo Renzi is to adopt a "generation mix, which includes renewables and nuclear" with a horizon of 2050, based on the assumption that three times more land is needed to guarantee the electricity demand forecast for that year with only renewables of a mix with the atom (a datum of which the source is not explicit).

The program refers to the "best technologies available", but although 2050 is indicated as the horizon to start nuclear fusion tests, it is likely that in this case we are thinking of more advanced and smaller nuclear power plants reactors. The position is similar to that of the League but the formulation is more generic. The program does not mention the quantity of plants to be built, nor the estimated investment or the location, but limits itself to saying that "the regulatory framework that governs the deployment of the necessary technologies over time, at the best economic conditions, must be defined as of now" .

China has discovered that it is rich in uranium The fields are a necessary resource for the development of its energy plans. But extracting them will not be easy and the international context does not help Democratic Party The Democratic Party is against nuclear power. The program states that "for a tomorrow without fossil fuels, investments must, as much as possible, focus on clean energy and not chase the discussion on the construction of nuclear power plants: because the timing and existing technologies are not compatible with a significant reduction in emissions by 2030 and do not solve the environmental problems associated with them ". The position is clear, the reasons instead expressed vaguely. Therefore in some points the party led by Enrico Letta sounds in contradiction with the conclusions reached by the Iea.

Movimento 5 Stelle Nuclear power is not present in the pentastellati program. However, the contrary position is known. However, the fate of the national deposit is also not mentioned, an issue on which representatives of the Movement spent their time in the last legislature. At the time of the first government of former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the then Undersecretary of the Ministry for Economic Development Davide Crippa (who left the Movement) asked for more stringent criteria for the location of the infrastructure. Gianni Girotto (promoter of a consortium deposit abroad) took care of it in the Senate and Giovanni Vianello in the Chamber (then passed to Alternativa).

Greens-Italian Left The allies on the left of the Democratic Party say no to nuclear. In particular, in the sights of Angelo Bonelli and Nicola Fratoianni there are "the nonexistent fourth generation nuclear" and the "nuclear fusion, very distant in time". The second is, in fact, in an experimental phase and has a horizon of 2050. Compared to the first, the classification is vague, but if we refer to the construction period and the type of the reactor, it is correct to say that there are no power plants. fourth generation at the moment. However, it should be noted that over time new technologies have emerged, such as those of Smr, in development. The alliance proposes to "continue research activities" in the nuclear field but without adopting this source for the national energy needs.

More Europe The party led by Emma Bonino mentions support for research and scientific cooperation in the nuclear field . It also proposes to "increase imports of electricity from zero and low carbon sources, through competitive auction mechanisms, replacing energy generated from fossil sources", therefore also from the atom, but produced by others.

Finally, the party urges the construction of the nuclear waste deposit, "following a transparent decision-making process". To tell the truth, the process, after many delays, has already entered its second phase, because the list of sites that have all the credentials to host the deposit is closing. A self-nomination must come from these, otherwise the government will choose. After a sudden publication of the first provisional selection, the municipalities concerned were given more time to present their counter-deductions and Sogin, the public company in charge of nuclear decommissioning, organized a series of meetings with the territories, open to all (it was required by law) and whose materials are available online.

Popular union No dry nuclear power from the list of the former mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris. Support for renewables passes through the nationalization of Enel green power, a subsidiary of the electricity giant, and the creation of a state-owned green energy company. Without specifying, however, with which investments.

Possible The party led by Giuseppe Civati ​​also refers to the studies of the IEA. Specifically, to say that "the strong temporal and economic constraints of the ecological transition make the choice to develop nuclear programs unsustainable". The spotlight is on the agency's calculations on the financial sustainability of the reactors, which in ten years must go to the current 9 thousand dollars per kW to 5 thousand in 2030. At 2020 prices, to be a valid alternative to hydroelectric, biomass and capture technologies. CO 2 in fossil fuel plants, nuclear power should cost between 2,000 and 3,000 euros less per kW. The Iea itself recognizes that the competitiveness of plants is one of the key variables for the future of nuclear power.

[This article will be updated following the publication of the programs]

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