Lithuania Might Keep Nuke Plant Open

October 9, 2008
VILNIUS, Lithuania (The Associated Press)

Lithuania said Thursday that it will keep running a Soviet nuclear plant unless the European Union can offer compensation for its closure.

The Chernobyl-style reactor in Ignalia provides 70 percent of Lithuania's electricity, but is regarded as unsafe due to design flaws.

Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said Lithuania will keep the Ignalia plant open until 2012 if Brussels fails to compensate for carbon emissions and the loss of the Baltic country's energy independence.

Navickas was speaking Thursday with the Baltic News Service before leaving for Luxembourg, where he will discuss the nuclear plant with EU economy ministers.

Before joining the EU in 2004 Lithuania pledged to close the reactor by the end of 2009.

"Unless the energy security problems Lithuania will face after closing the Ignalina plant in 2009 are solved, we will not approve the climate change program," Navickas said, adding that Lithuania would keep the reactor open until 2012.

The reactor shares the same flawed design as the Chernobyl plant that exploded in 1986, so many European countries want it closed.

Lithuania agreed to shut down the facility prior to joining the EU in 2004.

Economy Minister spokesman Ricardas Slapsys told The Associated Press that Lithuania's carbon dioxide emission will soar - to some 5 million tons annually - if thecountry is forced to close the nuclear reactor and switch to natural gas.

Worse, he said, will be the country's near complete dependence on
Russia. "Once Ignalina is closed, our livelihood will depend on one gas
pipeline from Russia," said Slapsys.

Navickas said that Lithuania wanted about 1 billion euros in aid and significantly higher emissions allowances if it were to shut down the Ignalina plant by Dec. 31, 2009.

Navickas left for Luxembourg for a Friday meeting with EU economy ministers to discuss the reactor's fate.

Lithuania is also holding a nonbinding referendum on Sunday to gauge the people's choice as to whether Ignalina's closure should be postponed. Polls indicated some 70 percent of Lithuanians support keeping the unit open.

Parliamentary elections will also take place the same day.
Lithuania closed the first of Ignalina's two reactors in 2004.