Berlusconi waves goodbye to nuclear power after big turnout for Italian referendum

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi waved goodbye to nuclear power as Ministry of the Interior figures confirmed that the turnout for a national referendum was sufficient to repeal a law setting out plans for new plants.

According to Reuters, figures from the Interior Ministry showed turnout was running at 57 per cent with some 98 per cent of the vote counted. For any referendum verdict to be legally accepted, a quorum of 50 per cent plus one of the Italian population must be reached.

With exit polls indicating that 94 per cent of voters in the nuclear referendum voted against Enel's plans to build four Areva EPRs, Berlusconi's nuclear ambitions appeared to be thwarted.

Berlusconi, facing mounting problems since heavy local election losses last month, appeared to concede defeat at least in the nuclear referendum when he told a news conference the vote had probably ended prospects for atomic energy in Italy.
 
"Following the decision the Italian people are taking at this moment, we must probably say goodbye to the possibility of nuclear power stations and we must strongly commit ourselves to renewable energy," he said.
 
Berlusconi has been a major supporter of atomic power, which the center right says is indispensable for the future of a country that imports nearly all its energy. However polls say most Italians oppose building nuclear power stations, which they consider unsafe in a country prone to earthquakes.
 
Aware of the likely backlash following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima reactor in March, the government had suspended its nuclear plans but a referendum could block them for decades.

Another referendum concerned the so-called "legitimate impediment" that allows ministers to skip trial hearings against them if they are on government business, which Berlusconi's critics say is for his personal benefit by possibly delaying his four concurrent trials. Two others concerned the privatization of water utilities.  

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