(Adds details background)
ROME, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Italy set up a new nuclear safety agency on Friday and appointed its head in a move that brings nearer the relaunch of the country’s nuclear power industry.
Setting up a nuclear safety agency is a key step in Italy’s plans to revive nuclear energy, which was rejected by a public vote in 1987 after the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
Public opinion in Italy has long been opposed to nuclear power, which is seen as unsafe and costly.
The new agency is “a fundamental move within the overall process that will help Italy integrate its national energy strategy with nuclear power,” the Industry and Environment ministers said in a note.
The agency is expected to define precise criteria for selecting sites for nuclear power stations and oversee their construction and operation, industry participants say.
Italy’s biggest utility, Enel (ENEI.MI), has said the timing of its plans to start building nuclear power stations in Italy together with France’s power giant EDF (EDF.PA) (EDF.PA) depended on the start up of the nuclear safety agency. [ID:nLDE6531S0]
Italy is the only Group of Eight industrialised nation without nuclear power, but the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants construction of nuclear plants to start in 2013 and for a quarter of all power in the country generated at nuclear plants in the future.
Writing by Stephen Jewkes in Milan; Editing by Alison Birrane