Italy court gives go-ahead on nuclear referendum

Nuclear - Jun 1, 2011 MILAN - Italy's top appeals court gave the go-ahead for a referendum on nuclear power on Wednesday despite a government decision to temporarily freeze plans to return to nuclear following the disaster in Japan.

Italians will vote on June 12 and 13 in the referendum, which if approved and if turnout is high enough would impose a permanent ban on nuclear power.

The centre-left opposition has been pushing for a referendum and has dismissed the government's moratorium announced in April as a stop-gap measure.

The opposition Italy of Values party had slammed Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for failing to acknowledge strong public opposition to nuclear power and attempting to undermine the referendum.

Berlusconi has long advocated nuclear power.

Prior to the court's decision he had insisted the freeze on the programme made it pointless to carry out the referendum, while confirming the government's intentions to pick up the nuclear schedule again within two years.

The head of the main opposition Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani, said the go-ahead for the referendum was "excellent news."

"The government's dirty tricks have been exposed once more," he said.

The "Vote Yes to Stop Nuclear" campaign, an umbrella group of more than 80 associations, said the appeals court had "censured the government's arrogance and given citizens back the right to decide on nuclear."

Italy abandoned nuclear power after a referendum in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster.

Berlusconi had planned to start building nuclear power stations from 2014 and to produce a quarter of its electricity with atomic energy by 2030.

As well as nuclear power, the referendum will call for Italians to vote on water privatisation.

They will also vote on whether the embattled Berlusconi -- currently on trial for sex and fraud crimes -- has the right to refuse to appear in court for an 18-month period to allow him to focus on his political commitments.

(c) 2011 AFP

Source : AFP

Published on Global Energy World: Jun 1, 2011