Lithuania is to shut down its ageing Soviet-era nuclear power plant despite concerns the country does not have enough replacement capacity to generate the power it needs.
The closure of the Ignalina reactor is a condition of Lithuania’s European Union membership. Built to the same design as the Chernobyl reactor, it provides 80 per cent of the nation’s electricity.
Director of the Ignalina plant, Victor Shevaldin said: “As a matter of fact, Lithuania’s economy and power engineering are not quite ready to work without the atomic power plant. We hope Lithuania will not remain without electricity. Part of the energy will be generated at its thermal power plants, buying mostly Russian gas and part of the energy will have to be purchased on the external market.”
To Lithuanians, the twin concrete reactor blocks have been a symbol of energy independence since the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Brussels has allocated 820 million euro to cover the decommissioning costs but people living in the nearby town of Visaginas say the closure is unnecessary.
Local resident Viktorija Vladimirovna said:
“They are shutting it down too early. There is no need to close it now. How is it possible? The atomic station brought us golden eggs, why are they shutting it down so early? It should continue working.”
The EU wants the plant decommissioned to ensure there is no repeat of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster when an explosion cast a deadly radio-active cloud over Europe.