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No one almost thinks that the real motivation could be the high electricity cost. Electric energy indeed is a very important and driving force for the economic development of the industrial nations. A widely diffused belief in Italy is that the free market and economic competition in the liberalized energy sector could lead to a reduction of the energy bills for natural gas and electricity. This is not true. Being the public monopolist – unfairly considered inefficient and obsolete – or the private industry to own and manage the power plants, there will be no difference at all, because 80% of the generation cost is related to the fuels used (hydrocarbons), that are under “blind trust” and not under “free market and competition”. In addition, oil and gas prices have tripled in the last three years and a new oil crisis is envisaged in the coming future. Beside the electricity cost, Italy is facing problems for lack of power to match the increased demand, in summer season and suffered an electric blackout on June 26th, the first time after 55 years. However, in 1948 the main cause was the consequences of World War II with heavy damages on power plants and electric network.
The proposal to solve both problems, cost and blackout, that is presently under government debate, is to build new gas combined cycle plants (GCC) on the nuclear sites, where we have five nuclear power plants under decommissioning.
This foolish idea is wrong for at least three reasons:
First: the time frame to build and put in operation new electric power plants, of whatsoever type, will require, with the necessary agreement of the local communities, 5 or 6 years time at a minimum and we might suffer further blackouts for several years to come.
Second: the more efficient GCC power plants, because the increased gas price, are not competitive any more with nuclear and coal at 35 US mills/kWh, their production cost (66 US mills/kWh) are 40% higher (at least) than the actual average generation cost (47 US mills/kWh) of the national electric system.
Third: the nuclear sites, wearisomely authorized, will be maintained as such in case of a possible future restart of nuclear power in Italy as recently has been envisaged.
One choice only could solve the three problems: restart immediately the nuclear power plants presently under “fast” decommissioning (Caorso and Trino Vercellese), whose power, 1100 MWe, would have been sufficient to avoid the 26th June blackout, due to a power lack of 800 MWe. This restart would require 15/20 months and not 5 or 6 years, the cost would be 5% only as compared with the “accelerated decommissioning” solution and the electricity could be generated at 35 and not at 66 US mills/kWh.
Wouldn’t this be a better solution?