Italy and Britain eye nuclear power potential

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi walks in the courtyard of Palazzo Chigi as he waits to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Rome July 11, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

PARIS (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Sunday oil-consuming countries should meet to fix a maximum price they were prepared to pay for oil or they would have to invest heavily in nuclear power.

Berlusconi denounced the “unfair” movement of wealth from consumer nations to oil-producing countries and the “exponential” rise in prices.

“It is an emergency situation that we find ourselves in today, and I think that wielding this threat should bring a fall in the price of oil,” Berlusconi told reporters after a summit of EU and Mediterranean leaders.

“Consumer countries need to meet as soon as possible, maybe in London, to reach an agreement on a maximum price for oil which cannot be breached,” said Berlusconi.

“Alternatively, we will need a massive building programme of nuclear power reactors,” he said. Italy halted its nuclear energy programme after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Berlusconi said his proposal for a meeting had the approval of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Early editions of Monday’s British newspapers reported that Brown wanted at least eight new nuclear power stations to come on stream in Britain during the next 15 years.

Brown, who also attended the summit, said a “renaissance” of nuclear power was one of the key elements of the British government’s oil replacement strategy.

Reporting by Francois Murphy and Alberto Sisto, writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Jon Boyle