Lithuania’s Ignalina nuclear power plant has less than one year left to live. The government has not managed to negotiate a postponement of full shutdown on January first 2010, which was a condition for Lithuania’s joining the European Union in 2004.
The Baltic state is home to the only Soviet-era, Chernobyl-type reactor facility on EU territory. Since this one provides for 70 percent of Lithuania’s energy needs, in Vilnius, the prime minister says his country is worried: “We are not so sure if really electricity supply will be enough in the region and there are no easy solutions what to do in this situation if electricity supplies will be short.” – Andrius Kubilius, Prime Minister of Lithuania Vilnius, once under soviet domination, is still uncomfortable with Moscow today, notably over the Russians’ disrupting of oil supplies. Lithuania also imports all its nuclear fuel from Russia. To reduce this eastward reliance, EU money is helping connect Lithuania with western electricity grids. But a senior strategist says the work is not going fast enough: “We won’t be ready with those bridges, technically ready, by the time Ignalina nuclear power plant is decommissioned. What we are ready on time is our internal schedule of preparing the job. But there will be a gap period when Ignalina is shut down and new generation sources are not built yet.” – Darius Montvila, Leo LT strategic project director The original reason for demanding that Ignalina be turned off was concern over safety. Yet now all the members of the EU have to factor in CO2 reduction goals. Lithuania and neighbouring Latvia plan to buy more electricity in the future from Sweden and Poland. If losing Ignalina leads to a big rise in Lithuania’s output of greenhouse gases, it was agreed at the European summit in December that Vilnius could be given supplementary emission rights. But Brussels is adamant that there should be no going back on the nuclear shut-off deal. “If we can give them more money, we will give them more money, but what we should not forget is that Lithuania has received a large amount of money, 500 millions Euros until 2007, and there are 800 million euros more committed as an Ignalina decommissioning fund. And certainly we have identified the Baltic interconnection link as our priority number one in infrastructure. So the Commission is very actively helping Lithuania, but what the Commission cannot do is to go against the accession treaty of Lithuania.” – Ferran Tarradellas-Espuny, EC spokesman for energy Last month the European Commission agreed to propose that five billion euros more be allocated for regional energy connections this year and next, to strengthen the Baltic states’ energy independence and security. Furthermore, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are studying building a new nuclear power plant together, not far from Ignalina, to be operational by 2018.