Nuclear energy: Italians are more and more divided

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Italians are more and more willing to talk about going back to using nuclear energy.

Twenty years after the referendum on nuclear energy, more than one out of three Italians declare they are in favour of investments in nuclear energy, whereas less than four out of ten are still contrary. One out of four is not sure. This trend reversal is quite a recent one: until five years ago more than 56% of Italians were still clearly contrary, while the ones in favour were just over 20%.

This change in orientation has been influenced by the perception of the economic-political situation and the risk of resource depletion. The necessity to reduce dependence on oil-producing countries appears to be the main motivation to recur to nuclear energy (from 22,0% in 2003 to 37,6% in 2007).
In the last two years however, the number of people who would like to resort to nuclear energy in order to deal with insufficient energy sources has risen (from 26% in 2005 to 35% in 2007). The use of nuclear stations by other industrialised countries or the fact that also thermo-electric stations pollute are still secondary motivations.

Italians who are against nuclear energy go on saying it is better to develop alternative energy sources (43% in 2003 and 45% in 2007) and are always more inclined to think that no municipality would like to have a nuclear station in its own territory. Moreover they continue to give importance to the problems of waste disposal (32% of the ones in favour in 2003, 17% in 2005, 24,4% in 2007).
On the contrary, the doubts about the security in the stations are decreasing (from 20% in 2003 to 10% in 2007), whereas the number of those who reject the option of nuclear energy, denying there is a problem with energy supply in Italy, remains negligible (2,5%).

The great majority of those who are not sure claim they don’t have the competence to decide (76,7% in 2007) whereas 23% is convinced that the pros and cons come to the same thing.

On the whole, Italians tend to appear more and more divided on the matter of keeping the decision made at the referendum in 1987. The worries about safety in nuclear facilities (the referendum took place on the day after the tragedy in Chernobyl) have partly given way to preoccupations with energy problems. It is not a coincidence that even the ones against nuclear energy admit to a serious problem with energy supply.

In conclusion, we can foresee an intense public debate on the strategies that Italy will have to adopt in the short and long term in order to deal with the energy problem.

A short version was published by the Science in Society Monitor in Nova24 of the Il Sole24 Ore newspaper.