Italy's hot and cold relationship with nuclear power

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Italy's hot and cold relationship with nuclear power

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The 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine played a major role in Italy disconnecting itself from nuclear power.

One year later Italians voted in a referendum to shut its four nuclear power stations. By the turn of the decade the plug had all but been pulled at all of them.

That did not stop Italy importing electricity produced at atomic plants abroad, with Italian energy giant ENEL making a number of multi-million euro investments.

Italy currently imports 90 percent of all energy it consumes, leaving it exposed to volatile movements in the price of oil and gas.

That is why Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi wanted to wean his country off its dependence on foreign imports.

He and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed a deal in 2009 for ENEL and EDF to revive nuclear power in Italy by building four new plants by 2020.

Berlusconi said at the time that nuclear power was clean and safe and would also pave the way for lower energy bills for ordinary Italians.

Yet history looks set to repeat itself as the Fukushima disaster appears to have again spooked voters into rejecting atomic energy, according to forecasters’ predictions.