May 27, 2008

Italy moves to Nuclear Power

Nuclear power had been banned in Italy by public referendum for more than twenty years, but has decided to go nuclear now.

The continent turned its back on nuclear power in the 1980s in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, but political and economic conditions are markedly different now. Oil was under $50 a barrel then, global warming was a fringe science and climate change had not been linked to manmade emissions.

Although economic considerations and global warming are driving the debate, energy security is also an issue never far from the surface. Few European countries have their own energy reserves and are completely reliant on imports. As well as escalating prices for oil and gas, plus the political upheaval in the Middle East, Europe watched in horror in 2006 as Russia's President Vladimir Putin cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine in a price dispute, leaving it in darkness.

Although Europe is committed to harnessing wind and solar energy, so far the problems to doing so have proved insurmountable. Solar power is problematic in northern Europe, while dense populations in many parts of the continent make it difficult to find suitable sites for wind farms.

Even biofuel, once touted as a possible panacea, has gone out of fashion as its unsustainable impact on the environment and food prices has become apparent.

America needs to get on board, as well.

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