Italy has declared a one-year moratorium on plans to re-establish a nuclear power industry, in response to a Japanese nuclear crisis that has raised concerns across Europe about the safety of the technology.
The Italian Cabinet approved the moratorium Wednesday, halting any decision-making and research into suitable locations for nuclear plants. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to eventually build the plants to reduce Italy's dependence on foreign energy, and his government has scheduled a referendum on the issue in June.
Italy closed its nuclear plants in 1987, the year after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.
The head of the French nuclear-safety authority, Andre-Claude Lacoste, is quoted as saying France's nuclear power plants are safe, and that there is no reason to close the facilities that supply about 70 percent of the country's energy needs. The French press agency reports the government official was speaking Wednesday at a meeting with his European counterparts in Helsinki.
EU leaders are due to discuss safety guidelines for Europe's nuclear plants at a summit in Brussels beginning Thursday.
AFP quotes diplomats as saying the EU leaders are divided about whether to introduce a comprehensive system of "stress tests" on all nuclear plants in the 27-nation bloc.
Meanwhile, Slovenia says its only nuclear plant shut down automatically Wednesday, in what it called a "minor" incident that presented no danger to the environment. A spokeswoman for the Krsko plant in eastern Slovenia says the shutdown followed a cut in a power line linking the facility to neighboring Croatia.
The last incident at the Slovenian plant occurred three years ago in June, when a cooling-system water leak triggered a Europe-wide safety alert.
Radiation leakage from a Japanese nuclear plant crippled by this month's earthquake and tsunami have prompted Germany to accelerate its plan to switch from nuclear power to alternative-energy systems in the future. Authorities in Berlin ordered temporary shutdowns recently at seven of their oldest reactors, pending a safety review, and the government has suspended a plan to extend the life of other nuclear facilities.
Switzerland reacted to the Japanese nuclear crisis by suspending the approval process for three nuclear plants.