EU says Lithuania must shut down Soviet-era reactor

11:23, 19 January 2007
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Beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2009

The European Union said it won`t allow Lithuania to operate a Soviet-era nuclear reactor beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2009, potentially curtailing power supplies to the Baltic nation and surrounding countries, according to Bloomberg.

„They have to close the plant by the agreed date,” EU energy spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny said in a phone interview. „This is not subject to discussion.” The Lithuanian parliament is undeterred. Yesterday, it voted unanimously to request EU permission to delay closing the Ignalina plant, repudiating a pledge Lithuania made to join the European community in 2004. The former Soviet state is lobbying for a delay that would help it cope with scarce domestic energy sources.

A new nuclear plant to replace Ignalina won`t be operating before 2015, meaning energy supplies will be strained. Lithuania relies on the 1,500-megawatt reactor to generate enough power for the nation and to export it to neighboring countries. The planned reactor will be built by Lithuania, its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, and Poland to diversify their energy sources and ease dependence on imported natural gas from Russia. The 19-year-old plant uses the same reactor as the Chernobyl nuclear station in Ukraine. It was upgraded with new safety technology after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world`s worst nuclear-reactor disaster, which contaminated parts of Europe with radiation.

The plant`s 1,500-megawatt capacity is enough to supply about 3 million average European homes, although though the EU wants potentially unsafe reactors closed.

„Lithuania signed an agreement that has been ratified by all member states” to close Ignalina, Tarradellas Espuny said. Ignalina, named for the nearby city of the same name, closed one of its two reactors two years ago. Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas criticized the parliament`s plans to renegotiate the closing, saying Lithuania should concentrate on building a new nuclear plant instead, in an interview broadcast January 16.

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