Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

The Napoli Solution Goes Nuclear

Underneath the mountains of rubbish that litter the streets of Napoli and surrounding towns lies a complex, profitable, and extremely dangerous system run by the Camorra. In essence, for years this organised crime outfit has taken toxic industrial waste from Northern Italy, at bargain prices, and dispersed it throughout the Campania region – profiting from the fact that for fifteen years there’s been an ’emergency’ caused by the failure in the region’s most basic waste collection system – also conveniently infiltrated by the crime clans.

Industrialists in the north have consistently paid to have their waste disposed of, without asking too many questions. Out of sight, out of mind. The outfits run by the Camora for this purpose can afford to offer rock-bottom prices for their service because they have no health and safety regulations to follow in the disposal of this waste. It’s enough that they can bring it down south, and scatter it amongst the mountains of uncollected domestic rubbish.

In terms of profits, it’s been estimated that the ‘ecomafia’ brings in up to 23 billion euro (legambiente report Ecomafia 2007)[1].

In terms of danger, the combination of undisposed ‘normal’ waste, combined with industrial and toxic waste has coincided with elevated rates of cancer in affected towns in Campania. Overall there’s a 4% higher risk of dying of cancer in this region, while for certain specific types of cancer affecting the lungs and the liver the increased risk goes up to 9% and 29% respectively[2].

In practical terms, the Camora has created a free-trade zone in the Campania, where their brand of private enterprise offers goods and services at cut-throat prices. Goods and services that are essential to the smooth functioning of Northern Italy’s industry.

Is a state that’s unable, or unwilling, to control the safe disposal of toxic waste within its territory the best placed to hastily develop Nuclear reactors? A question that none of the major political parties has asked, given that all of them have advocated the re-opening of Italy’s long-shelved nuclear program.

Thankfully, an offer has arrived that takes away the worries associated with having nuclear reactors within a stone’s throw of mafiosi. The Albanian premier Berisha has spoken openly about a joint project with Italy that would see his country building what he has termed as a fourth-generation Nuclear reactor, in just five years (as promised by Berlusconi during the election campaign – though current projections for the opening of the first IV generation reactor in the world are optimistically put at 2020 ,b>[4]).

This would also allow the Italian government to sidestep the uncomfortable issue that Italians overwhelmingly voted against having a nuclear program back in a referendum held in 1987. Legally the government can, with a majority, over-ride the referendum’s result (as they did with electoral legislation), but the question is will they have sufficient authority and support to push through a building plan for a reactor. The Napoli refuse ’emergency’ has, handily, provided them with the excuse to push through legislation which provides for heavy-handed police and army intervention in sensitive areas like landfill and waste-incinerator sites to physically prevent civil disobedience protests.

It’s not the first time that Italy has turned to the under-developed east with regard to its nuclear ambitions. Italy’s main energy company ENEL, in 2005 acquired 66% of Slovakian utility company Slovenske Elektrarne, and appears intent – along with the Slovakian government – to complete the construction of two soviet-era reactors, the completion of which has long been stalled. Similar reactors planned for construction in East Germany were cancelled after the re-unification of Germany, as they failed to meet safety standards.

There’s one simple question to be answered. If nuclear power is so safe, and economically viable, why is it that there’s a consistent need to turn to non-eu states that are economically under-developed to build them?

Turning a blind eye to safety (and economic viability) regarding the development of nuclear in Italy – or by proxy, through Albania and the like – may provide a quick and efficient short-term solution to some of Italy’s power needs. It’s the Napoli solution.

[1] Legambiente Ecomafia report – taken from Kataweb news
[2] Interview cafeblog 23/02/2008
[3[ Berisha – siamo pronti a costruire le centrali nucleare per l’italia – Corriere della sera 29/05/2008
[4] Science or fiction – is there a future for nuclear energy?