Italy's government proposed on Tuesday to shelve indefinitely its nuclear plans following radiation leaks at Japan's nuclear plant.
The government presented an amendment to legislation under consideration in the Senate that would call off plans to find, build and activate nuclear plants in the country. The amendment says the government plans to define a new energy strategy instead.
Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani said the leaks at Japan's Fukushima plant had changed everything and that Italy was merely taking the same steps as Germany and others in altering energy strategies following the disaster.
"Such important choices for our future can't be taken based on emotional waves or political maneuvering," he said in a statement.
Critics and lawmakers opposed to nuclear energy said the government's decision was merely designed to imperil a popular referendum set for later this year on the government's nuclear plans. They said with the issue off the political agenda, Italians will be less likely to go to the polls in June to vote.
In a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster, Italians overwhelmingly rejected nuclear power.
The government in November began taking steps to introduce nuclear energy into the country, naming a board of directors to look at the issue. Premier Silvio Berlusconi had wanted to go nuclear to reduce Italy's energy-dependency on foreign nations.
Some 86 percent of Italy's energy comes from outside the country, well above the EU average of 53 percent, according to the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group that advises member countries on energy matters.
The nuclear crisis in Japan, however, emboldened opponents and prompted even supporters to concede that there's a need for further reflection.