The Vatican criticised countries such as Italy which have abandoned nuclear power, saying atomic energy is only evil when used to make weapons.
“Ruling out nuclear energy on principle, or because of a fear of disasters, could be a mistake and in some cases leads to paradoxical effects,” said Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who heads an important Vatican department.
“Take Italy. In 1987 it abandoned the production of nuclear energy. But now it imports this very type of energy from France and exports nuclear power stations,” Martino said in an interview with Vatican Radio.
Italy banned nuclear energy on its territory in the wake of a referendum held on the issue in 1987, a year after the Chernobyl disaster.
One of the results of this decision is that it has to import around 16% of the electricity it uses. Ironically much of that is nuclear-generated power bought from France, where atomic energy satisfies around 75% of domestic demand.
Martino, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said there was nothing intrinsically bad about nuclear technology as long as it was used for the good of humanity.
“The works of human engineering, including therefore advances in the nuclear field, should be placed at the service of the human family,” he said.
The prelate was speaking three days after Pope Benedict said money spent by states on nuclear weapons should be redirected into civilian uses for the same technology.
The clear expression of the Vatican’s line is likely to reverberate in Italy, where there have been calls recently for the nuclear option to be reconsidered.
Supporters say the cost of importing energy justifies a drastic change of tack. Italy consumes about six times the energy it produces.
Italy was among the first countries in the world to use nuclear technology for civil purposes in the late 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the world’s third biggest producer of atomic energy, after the US and Great Britain.
A few years ago Italian firms like ENEL and Sogin started going abroad to enter the nuclear sector by the back door, taking part in ventures on foreign soil.
The premier at the time, Silvio Berlusconi, gave these firms his blessing, arguing it was sound business and perfectly legal.
But most Italians appear to be still firmly against nuclear energy. According to a recent poll by the IPSOS research institute, some 82% of Italians dislike the idea of a return to nuclear power.
Source: Italy Magazine[ energy ] [ vatican ]