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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 17:12 GMT
Italians protest on nuclear dump site
Residents' protest
Angry residents have donned masks to make their point
Residents of the coastal town of Scanzano in Southern Italy are protesting against government plans to build an underground nuclear waste dump there.

Hundreds are camping out on the site where the government plans to store 80,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, while thousands more have marched on parliament in Rome.

Scanzano has a successful economy based on tourism and agriculture. Residents fear the nuclear bunker will destroy the economy.

However, the Government regards the consolidation of its nuclear-waste storage facilities in one place as a national priority, especially in the wake of 11 September.

Most dangerous

Italy closed down all four of their nuclear power plants in 1987, but the spent fuel of these decommissioned power stations now present a security risk.

The country's nuclear waste is currently stored in more than 150 sites throughout the country, including hospitals and universities.

Giancarlo Bolognini, chief executive of SOGIN, the company responsible for nuclear decommissioning in Italy, told BBC News Online that Italy's current nuclear storage facilities were the most dangerous and insecure in Europe.

"The waste is too easily accessible and could be used for a dirty bomb," he said.

"Burying all waste 800 metres under Scanzano in a natural layer of rock salt is the best solution. It is the best location from a geological point of view as it meets all our criteria and is not in an earthquake zone."

But some geologists say the area could be considered unstable, and the risk of earthquakes cannot be ruled out.

Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty and surrounded by olive trees, vineyards and orange groves, Scanzano has been called "Italy's California".

The town depends on tourism and agriculture and boasts zero unemployment, compared to 19% in the rest of Southern Italy.

Although the bunker is not due to be constructed until 2008, residents are already experiencing fallout from the announcement.

Scanzano is the only suitable site and if we back down we'll never find agreement on another
Roberto Tortoli
Environment undersecretary
"We're losing business fast," farmer Rocco Zuccarella told BBC News Online. "They see Scanzano written on the box and send produce back because they've seen something on TV about nuclear waste."

Despite the protests, the Italian Government is standing behind its choice of Scanzano as the site for the nuclear bunker.

"Scanzano is the best choice," said environment undersecretary Roberto Tortoli. "We can't back down from our decision. Scanzano is the only suitable site and if we back down we'll never find agreement on another."

Experts say the waste will remain radioactive for up to 150,000 years.

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