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Reuters Summit-GDF Suez eyes Italy's nuclear relaunch

Wed, 26th May 2010 21:38


By Muriel Boselli and Daniel Fineren

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - GDF S
uez is keen to take part in the Italian nuclear power rebirth but only with at least two other partners, the utility's chief executive said on Wednesday.

Italy's centre-right government wants 25 percent of Italy's electricity to come from nuclear power, and France, the world's second largest producer of atomic energy, has eyed the potentially lucrative market closely.

'We are interested in principle, but we are not in a hurry, to assess the interest of the nuclear power generation in Italy,' Gerard Mestrallet said at the Reuters Global Energy Summit

'The only thing I can say is that if we decided to do that, we would go with Italian partners and European partners. We'll never go alone,' he added.

GDF Suez has a 15 percent nuclear power share in its global energy mix and aims to maintain the same share in the next decade despite the fact that the firm has no nuclear power assets in the 19,000 megawatts in power generation capacity it is currently building.

Italy will use Areva's latest EPR technology, a reactor designed to resist powerful shocks including plane crashes, for the first four reactors to be built.

The Italian government gave a final approval in February to a decree paving the way for starting work on new plants in 2013 and nuclear production in 2020.

GDF Suez also wants to play a role in Britain's nuclear relaunch but now says it needs clarification about British government's policy on nuclear after the election which brought the pro-nuclear conservative party in a rare coalition with the anti-nuclear Liberal Democrats.

'It has to be profitable with a degree of risk which is acceptable,' Mestrallet said.

Many of Europe's biggest utilities are planning to build nuclear power plants in Britain but say that European carbon emissions prices are too low to incentivize their construction.

GDF Suez, which has joined a consortium with Iberdrola and Scottish and Southern Energy, has bought a field in Britain to build one.

Mestrallet said that carbon prices under the European Union's trading scheme should rise but welcomed the new UK government's plan to set a carbon floor price

'We see in the medium and long term a progressive growth in the carbon price,' he said.

He added that British plans to ensure a minimum penalty for fossil fuel-fired power plants' emissions of climate warming carbon, would help spur nuclear investments.

'Of course it will help new nuclear,' he said.

(Additional reporting by Marie Maitre and Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Marguerita Choy) Keywords: ENERGY SUMMIT/GDFSUEZ

(muriel.boselli@reuters.com; +33 1 4949 5270; Reuters Messaging: muriel.boselli.reuters.com@reuters.net )

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