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Italy Places Hold on Nuclear Power Plants

Enel's power plant, built on the site of a projected nuclear plant that has not been completed, is seen in Montalto di Castro in central Italy, March 18, 2011

Italy's government has added a new amendment to a nuclear power decree that puts an indefinite hold on plans to build nuclear power plants in the country.

The move comes after a tsunami and earthquake damaged Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor. The amendment in the decree, which was submitted to parliament Tuesday, was described as giving the government time to gather more scientific evidence on the issue.

Parliament is scheduled to vote June 12 on a referendum that would reintroduce nuclear energy in Italy. The government said the hold on plans to build nuclear plants makes that vote unnecessary.

Opposition critics say the move is an attempt by the government to prevent defeat in the referendum so it eventually can bring back nuclear power.

The nuclear disaster in Japan has prompted debate about the safety of nuclear power in Italy. Like Japan, Italy is prone to earthquakes.

Italy abolished the production of nuclear power on its soil after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. But Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi previously announced his desire to reintroduce the technology. Opponents say the country should concentrate on generating energy from renewable sources.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.