Submitted by New Energy News Blog

In the absence of an economy large enough to initiate a massive move to New Energy, governments have 3 choices for large-scale power generation: coal, nuclear or natural gas.

In the carbon-constrained society that Europe’s unblinking recognition of global climate change has turned it into, coal is not an option until “clean” coal is proven and becomes financially viable (if that ever happens).

Europe’s natural gas supplies must come from Russia or Persian Gulf nations. Europeans do not want to build their energy future around dependency on uncertain supplies from hostile governments.

That leaves nuclear.

Everybody from Vladimir Putin to John McCain touts the potential of nuclear energy but nobody is actually financing new plants. The problem with nuclear: Cost. As verified in Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) studies by Amory Lovins, investment is not presently going into nuclear energy because (1) plants are expensive, (2) extended construction guarantees long payback delays, (3) risks associated with accidents, spills and terrorism require unaffordable levels of insurance and (4) there is still no satisfactory solution for what to do with radioactive waste.

Italy’s renewable Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently signaled a change of direction for the country with pontifications about building new nuclear. The preceding, center-left Prodi government, in 2007, instituted a feed-in tariff to drive solar energy development along with wind energy and biomass energy quotas to drive development those areas. As intended, New Energy capacity is rising.

Italy has suffered brownouts and power shortages in recent years and takes the question of power supply seriously. It has just brought on line a world class LNG terminal. Will it stand for empty rhetoric about the feasiblity of a financially impractical nuclear future? Or will it push ahead with the development of its sun and wind and recycled waste resources, the real New Energy of tomorrow?

These pay back periods and rates of return make nuclear a poor place to put dwindling liquid assets. (click to enlarge)

Berlusconi launches nuclear and renewable energy plan: report
September 20, 2008 (AFP via Yahoo News)

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister, Italy;

Berlusconi’s “national energy plan” calls for new LNG, New Energy and, most of all, new nuclear.

From Amory Lovins’ RMI. (click to enlarge)

– Berlusconi returned to power in April
– In May, the Italian government said it would begin building nuclear by 2013, the end of the current parliamentary term.
– 1987: Italy responded to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl with a referendum banning nuclear power for 20 years.

Italy depends on foreign sources for 87 percent of its energy needs. (Oil 43%, natural gas 36%)

– Italy has 4 operating nuclear plants and gets 10% of its electricity from them. They were in service before the Chernobyl incident.
– Berlusconi claims his plan will lower the cost of electricity in Italy.
– Italy expects assistance from the nuclear industries in France and the UK in developing nuclear.
– Opposition to nuclear expansion is expected from the political left and from anti-nuclear activists.
– Italy’s 2007 solar energy feed-in tariff has just this year begun attracting investment from solar producers and installers all over the world.

Italy’s FiT has started a boom in its solar industry. (click to enlarge)

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister, Italy: “From now until next spring, the government will present a national energy plan…[that will include] the launch of nuclear and renewable energy.”

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