Nuclear energy, which was brought to an end in Italy with the referendums of 1987 and 2011, is returning as a topic in Italian politics through the European back door, because of a decision by the EU Commission to include the so-called fourth generation nuclear power among the sources of “green energy” in connection with the ecological transition.
The issue had already reared its head when the Minister of Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani said he considered nuclear energy a credible prospect. Cingolani was immediately praised by the Lega and Matteo Salvini, who have now launched the proposal for a referendum to restart the production of nuclear energy in Italy. Outside the majority, a similar position has been taken by Fratelli d’Italia, which has expressed support for France on its path to nuclear power.
In mid-December, the Lega undersecretary for ecological transition Vannia Gava took part in the conference organized by the Italian Nuclear Association and expressed openness towards restarting nuclear plants. Together with her, other participants with similar positions included Carlo Calenda of Azione! and Erica Mazzetti of Forza Italia.
Another speaker at the conference was Antonio Misiani, head of economic policy for the Democratic Party. “Discussing this issue cannot be taboo,” said Misiani. Later on, though, he reverted to the official line of the PD: “Today, nuclear power is not an option.” A few days later, the PD secretary Enrico Letta, asked by La Repubblica, said: “In the immediate future I would bet on the revival of domestic gas production.“ However, the issue is not quite cleared up, because for Letta “the solution is delegating competence to the EU.”
So, in the face of the Commission’s decision and the split in Europe on the classification of energy sources, the position and the strategic choices of the Italian government, and its composite majority, become crucial.
As of Monday, no new position had been taken by the PD, but the fact that the confusion within the majority cuts across the political spectrum is also demonstrated by the fact that the M5S, to which Cingolani belongs and which chose to support Draghi in exchange for heading the new Ministry of Ecological Transition, has expressed the clearest position against nuclear energy and the new EU taxonomy.
“Nuclear and gas cannot be considered green sources, and as a result cannot be included among sustainable investments,” said the M5S members of the Committee on EU policies of the Senate. “This is not the future. Public money should be given to technologies that make European citizens more independent of energy sources imported from abroad and following a green vision.” Their colleagues on the Industry Committee argue that “only in Italy is the current crisis of energy prices being linked to the topic of nuclear power, an energy source now obsolete, expensive, with long development times and thus useless for the purpose of mitigating the cost of energy bills in the immediate future.”
The senators had a message to Salvini, whose attitude on the subject they called “reckless,” and “all the other components of the majority who continue to sing the praises of nuclear power,” calling for “an approach based on realism.” Nevertheless, the Lega on Monday spread the malicious rumor that the Italian diplomacy led by Luigi Di Maio is rigging the process of establishing the taxonomy in the European Union.