The Italian nuclear community turns to politics and asks for three measures, in order to make a contribution to solving the climate and energy crises: a national energy planning which provides, in mix of sources from which Italy will be able to drawalso there nuclear fission; a law that supports and encourages Italian companies that want to immediately participate in the creation of new nuclear power plants abroad; finally equip the country with a national repository for nuclear waste.
But atomic energy fans are also addressing public opinion: they know that there is a need for a new narrative that “rehabilitates” a technology considered dangerous in the eyes of Italians. And so here we insist on emphasizing the safety of nuclear power plantsthe existing ones and even more the future ones, in underlining the economic convenience of thefission electricityin reiterating that the atom will be only a piece of the future energy mixtogether with renewables.
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Addressing politics, despite the defections of ministers Pichetto Fratin and Urso – who were also exceptional guests of the conference – was Umberto Minopolipresident of theItalian Nuclear Association (Ain) during the association’s annual meeting. “Last year someone turned to us saying that it was a scandal to continue using nuclear power,” recalls Minopoli. “This time, with the energy crisis that we are experiencing after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the atmosphere is completely different”. In short, thanks to the geopolitical scenario, the return to nuclear power would no longer be a taboo.
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Indeed, according to the president of Ain, who gathered researchers, politicians and entrepreneurs in Rome, Italy’s return to nuclear power should be launched today. And not just to deal with the peak cost of natural gas. “If we are to decarbonise the economy”, argues Minopoli, “carbon sources of energy must be eliminated and the only way to do so is a mix of renewables and nuclear energy“. He made the calculations Joseph Zollinoprofessor of Technique and economics of energy and nuclear plants at the University of Padua.
“We have calculated the best possible mix to minimize the price of energy and at the same time achieve zero emissions by 2050. It emerged that Italy should install 250 gigawatts of renewables, 160 gigawatts of storage (between batteries and hydrogen) alongside 36 gigawatts of nuclear energy“. According to Zollino, numbers in hand, nuclear power is also the most sustainable energy: “A plant with three or four reactors would occupy 200 hectares. To produce the same energy with the latest generation renewables, it would take 45,000 hectares of panels or 230,000 hectares on which to distribute wind turbines“.
Among the reasons listed by Ain for demanding an immediate return to nuclear power, there is theintermittence of renewable sources: “Europe needs continuous energy and storage won’t be enough”, explains Minopoli. Furthermore, the energy transition pushes towards a complete electrification of devices and therefore one is expected for the next few years growth in electricity consumption. A requirement that, according to nuclearists, solar and wind power will not be able to satisfy even if there were a colossal acceleration in their grounding. “Even if we made all imaginable renewables we would find ourselves faced with a paradox”, says Zollino. “However, we would not be able to meet the consumption peaks of the winter months, while in the summer we would have to throw away a significant portion of the energy produced by photovoltaics. In the end, that electricity would have no market value and it would no longer be worthwhile for companies to invest in it”.
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And here then is the appeal, in three points, to Parliament to favor the return of nuclear energy in Italy in a bipartisan way. “The Pniec (Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan) only indicates the decarbonisation objectives but not the sources with which to achieve them. For this reason we ask that a National energy planning that includes nuclear energy in the energy mix”, hopes Minopoli. “To those who object that the construction of nuclear power plants takes decades, I would like to remind you that we have until 2050 to decarbonise”.
But then there is the immediate: the increasingly expensive energy bills. “Italian companies should be able to participate in the construction of nuclear power plants abroad, close to our borders. Both in order not to stay out of this strategic sector, and to ensure that energy costs less for Italian companies and families”.
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Finally the national filing dilemmawhose placement has been postponed for decades: “It’s time to stop hypocrisy, we need to decide and proceed with its implementation. We ask politics”, concludes Minopoli, “to catch up with Italian industry and research”.