Nuclear power has the potential to play a significant role in Italy’s long-term decarbonization plans if reintroduced in the country’s energy mix over the next decade, according to Lorenzo Mottura, Edison’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation.
Benefits of Nuclear Energy
Mottura emphasizes the value of nuclear power, not just in terms of sustainability and energy independence, but also as a catalyst for economic development. By providing a low-emitting source of energy, nuclear power can offset the intermittent nature of renewables and bring stability to energy systems. This stability would allow Italy to become more self-sufficient in terms of energy procurement.
Edison’s Strategic Plans
Edison, a utility company controlled by Electricite de France, aims to build two nuclear power plants with a capacity of 340 megawatts each between 2030 and 2040. However, this plan is dependent on technological advancements and favorable political conditions. The government is also actively supporting these efforts, aiming to bring nuclear power back after a decades-long hiatus.
Energy Scenario to 2050
In Edison’s vision for Italy’s energy future, nuclear power would account for approximately 10% of the country’s energy demand by 2050. The majority of energy, about 80%, would be derived from renewables. The remaining 10% would be supplied by gas-fired power plants equipped with carbon-capture and storage technology.
Government Support and Research Platform
The Italian government is currently reassessing its long-standing ban on nuclear power, aligning with its efforts to decarbonize the economy. The Ministry of Environment has established a research platform to explore the potential for a nuclear comeback using new technologies. Mottura sees this as an incredible achievement and emphasizes the need to create favorable conditions for Italy to embrace nuclear power once again.
Italy’s Nuclear History
Italy began producing nuclear energy in the early 1960s but closed down all plants by 1990 following a referendum triggered by the Chernobyl disaster. Now, with a different global context and advanced technology, Italy is poised to reconsider its stance on nuclear power.
The Favorable View on Nuclear Technologies in Italy
A recent poll conducted by Italian firm SWG revealed that more than half of the population in Italy would support the use of new nuclear technologies. This is particularly true if the nuclear plants are built away from residential areas and if they lead to savings on utility bills.
Edison, a prominent energy company, has announced plans to develop small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of their nuclear plants. SMRs are significantly smaller than conventional reactors and have a more compact design. Consequently, they are better suited for small electric grids and easier to transport.
The European Union has recognized SMRs as a “promising option” for replacing coal and complementing renewables. Currently, various developers worldwide are testing this technology, with the possibility of it becoming available by the end of the decade.
France’s state-owned utility, EDF, has even established a subsidiary called Nuward dedicated to the development of SMRs. They are set to begin construction on the first plant in 2030. Edison sees this as a potential opportunity for growth and is also considering exploring advanced modular reactors (AMRs) in the future.
As part of its overall business strategy, Edison plans to invest 10 billion euros ($10.6 billion) by the end of the decade. Approximately half of this investment will be allocated towards renewable energy sources. Edison’s portfolio will include wind, solar, hydropower, thermoelectric plants, storage systems, and carbon dioxide capture technology.
By 2030, more than 45% of Edison’s profitability will come from clean electricity generation. Gas supply and thermoelectric production will account for approximately 30%. While gas will continue to play a significant role, Edison aims to progressively decarbonize its operations.
In conclusion, the poll results indicate a favorable view towards nuclear technologies in Italy, with a preference for building nuclear plants away from residential areas. Edison’s plans to develop SMRs align with the growing interest in this technology globally. With significant investments in renewables and a commitment to decarbonization, Edison is positioning itself for a sustainable future.