Italy’s government on April 19 announced it is indefinitely suspending plans to build the country’s first nuclear power plants—ahead of a June referendum on the nuclear development plans, which the administration says is no longer necessary. “The program had been halted in order to acquire more scientific evidence,” the government said in a surprise clause inserted in the text of a decree which submitted to parliament. The damage at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors “has imposed a pause for reflection,” Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said.
But critics from the left opposition and anti-nuclear activists said the move was an attempt by the government to avoid defeat in the referendum on nuclear power set for June 12. “It is a preventative trick (to avoid the holding of the referendum) that indicates a fact: the strong opposition of the Italian people to nuclear power,” said Giuseppe Onufrio, Italian director for Greenpeace.
Italy abolished nuclear power in a referendum held in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. But following his 2008 election victory, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced his government’s intention to re-introduce nuclear development plans. Last month the government said it was postponing to 2013 a decision, originally scheduled for later this year, on where to site the proposed power plants. (AKI, April 19)