Atomic Policy in Lithuania

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Lithuania is decommissioning the Soviet built Ignalina nuclear power plant and is planning a new one at the same site, despite that citizens voted against it in a nation-wide referendum held on October 14th, 2012. In the past Ignalina nuclear power plant (INPP) consisted of two RBMK type reactors (the same as in Chernobyl), which were built while Lithuania was member of the Soviet Union. INPP produced up to about 70-80 percent of the country's electricity. In 1992, a nuclear fuel cassette was stolen from the Ignalina nuclear power plant. In 1994, a terror act was proposed and the power plant was stopped for a few days. Lithuania had to close INPP as a condition to join EU, due to safety reasons. The first reactor was closed in 2004, the second in 2009. INPP now is the biggest energy consumer in the country. In 2010, radioactive liquids were released in the surrounding area of the plant; it was officially claimed not to be dangerous. Besides this, the decommissioning of the power plant is going along with many scandals. There are delays in constructing temporary repositories, so there is no place where to put spent fuel. Therefore, the fuel is still in use, though the plant does not produce electricity any more. Financial difficulties are expected, as Lithuania was not able to use all the funds available for 2007-2013 period. In addition, billion Euros disappeared. Therefore, the EU might cut the funding for the next period. In July 2013, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has renewed the funding of Ignalina Interim Spent Fuel Facility B1 [1].

Despite these difficulties, Lithuanian politicians are planning a new atomic power station (Visaginas - VNPP) at the same site. In 2006, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia decided to build the new nuclear power plant together. Later Poland joined the project, but recently was hesitant whether to want to join the project when they got to know the conditions with the constructor Hitachi-GE. In 2007, Lithuania's parliament adopted a law on building a new NPP. The law also stipulated the creation of a "national investor" to gain investments for the new nuclear power plant[2]. Lithuanian Energy Company (LEO LT), a national energy holding, was established in 2008 by the government with the Lithuanian government holding 61.7% of LEO LT and 38.3% of "NDX Energija". LEO LT was surrounded by controversies, for instance, "NDX Energija" was chosen without any competition. The project has gained public opposition, but it was not against the power plant itself, but against the way investor was formed. In the end of 2009 the company was liquidated. Then the government proposed an international tender to find a strategic investor, which failed. After this, the government proposed a bid process. The Japanese-American company Hitachi-GE was turned into the strategic investor.

VNPP is promoted as a solution to Lithuania's dependency on Russian energy, while the reality is that the plant would make the country even more dependent as Lithuania is involved to the Russian power transmission system, and only Russia could guarantee the immediate power reserve. The politicians claim that Lithuania will be a regional leader by building the power plant and electricity would be cheap. The critical information was being kept secret from the public all the way during the project development. Moreover, the proponents organized a campaign against anti-nuclear activists claiming they were financed by the Russian government.

The Lithuanian government was still pursuing the nuclear plans after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. For Hitachi-GE it is a chance to sell their reactors, while the market has shrunk. On October 14th, 2012, Lithuanian citizens voted on the statement "I am in favour of constructing a new nuclear power plant in the Republic of Lithuania" in a nation-wide consultative referendum. The referendum was attended by 52,5 percent of voters with 62,6 percent voting "No". However, Lithuanian politicians are now trying to downplay the results of the referendum, claiming it would be supposed only to consult the opinion of people, while legal acts stipulate the referendum to be legally binding.

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