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Nuclear Power in Italy: Lost and Potential Role in Decarbonizing the Electric System

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In December 1988 Italy decided to abort the construction of the Montalto di Castro nuclear power plant (two reactors of 982 MWe each). Two years later, Trino Vercellese (260 MWe) and Caorso (880 MWe) reactors were finally shut down, thus officially heralding the end of the Italian nuclear electricity production. In this study we analyse the impact of these decisions on the Italian energy policies, primarily in terms of failed reduction of GHG emissions. Our retrospective analysis assumes Trino and Caorso plants being kept in operation up to forty years since the first grid-connection, as well as the commercial operation of Montalto reactors hypothetically starting in 1992. The study further examines the potentiality of new nuclear power capacity installation in shaping the Italian future energy mix, by means of two modeled scenarios: 1) a basic scenario in which the thermoelectric power from coal is merely replaced and 2) an advanced scenario in which the share of low-carbon electricity production becomes predominant by means of the new nuclear generation capacity share as opposed to a sole increase of wind and solar power. We estimate the cumulative and yearly values of GHG emissions for new power installations considering the Life-Cycle Assessment data available in literature. For postulated additional nuclear power we model a suited unit plant from average technical features of reactors which became operational since 2011. In the advanced scenarios we also evaluate the land use intensity (unit area needed per unit energy output) and the overall reliability of the electric mix. In particular, we quantify the land use avoided thanks to the increase in electricity generation from nuclear power plants in place of wind or solar power generation. Modeled GHG emission reductions emissions are compared to those calculated starting from the projections of the EU Reference Scenario 2016, which includes policies and measures adopted by EU Member States by December 2014.
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  • C Arcarese
  • A Bernetti
  • A Caputo
  • M Contaldi
  • R De Lauretis
  • E Di Cristofaro
  • A Gagna
  • B Gonella
  • E Taurino
  • M Vitullo
Romano, D., Arcarese, C., Bernetti, A., Caputo, A., Contaldi, M., De Lauretis, R., Di Cristofaro, E., Gagna, A., Gonella, B., Taurino, E., Vitullo, M., Italian Greenhouse Gas Inventory 19902015, Report 261/2017, Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale, 2017