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Italian reactor plans draw French interest

April 8, 2010

By Peggy Hollinger in Paris and Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: April 8 2010

France’s nuclear industry will on Friday unveil agreements with Italian companies aimed at strengthening its hand when Rome relaunches nuclear power from 2013.

Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, and Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, will preside over an extension of Franco-Italian nuclear co-operation at their bilateral summit in Paris. They will also attempt to bury the hatchet in a feud over liberalisation of France’s rail sector.

France, which late last year suffered an embarrassing setback to its nuclear ambitions when Abu Dhabi opted for South Korean technology in a $20bn (€15bn, £13bn) tender, is keen to position itself as Italy’s main atomic energy partner as the country comes closer to launching its own reactor projects.

Italy banned nuclear power in 1987 after the Chernobyl disaster, but earlier this year pushed through a decree that sets a timetable for work to start on new reactors from 2013, with production due to come on line by 2020. Mr Berlusconi has said he wants 25 per cent of Italy’s electricity to be generated by nuclear reactors.

Enel is a shareholder in France’s new generation European pressurised reactor project, while it and EDF, the state-owned utility that manages the country’s 58 nuclear reactors, have a joint venture to build reactors in Italy.

French officials said the agreements would build on that co-operation. Seven agreements would be signed, covering the manufacturing and supply of nuclear components, joint bids in new markets, training and waste disposal.

Areva, France’s nuclear engineering group, will sign an accord with Ansaldo Nucleare, the nuclear components arm of Italy’s Finmeccanica, that will give the Italian company access to France’s EPR technology.

Ansaldo is to become a key supplier to the joint venture between EDF and Enel. People close to the companies said Ansaldo would bring expertise in the certification process, critical to the construction of any reactor.

Meanwhile, the two countries will attempt to put an end to the dispute over access to France’s rail market with a pledge to work together on future projects.

Paris officials admitted that the acquisition by SNCF, France’s state-owned rail group, of a stake in private Italian rail operator NTV was seen as an act of “aggression” by Ferrovie dello Stato, the public Italian railway group, given the difficulty in entering the French market.

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