3 May 2012 by Pelle Neroth
In the teeth of domestic public opinion, the Lithuanian government went ahead and did this in 2009.
This left the country dependent on its old political master, Russia, for most of its electricity. So now the Lithuanians are building a new nuclear power plant at the same spot, to be ready by 2020. But the efforts to become independent of Russia don't end there.
The Baltic state of 3.2m inhabitants is looking to open an LNG terminal at Klaipeda, its main port. Lithuania is trying to force Russian energy giant Gazprom to sell off its 37% share in the Lithuanian gas distribution company Lietuvos Dujos under new EU rules that bar a company from both selling and distributing energy.
Projects to build electricity interconnectors across the Baltic Sea to Sweden and to neighbouring Poland are going ahead, and there is already a link to Finland from Estonia. The hope is not only to buy electricity from Scandinavia, but to sell it.
The nuclear power plant, Visaginas, named after a nearby lake, and next door to the decommissioned Ignalina, is to be built by the Japanese. This marks a comeback for the Hitachi/General Electric collaboration which built the plant at Fukushima. Expected to cost 5bn euros, the 1300 MW plant is too expensive for Lithuania to build alone, so it has engaged its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Latvia.
There are final decisions to be made in June; construction at Visaginas could start in 2015; there are disputes with Latvia and Estonia as to how to divide energy output between the three. It will probably be done in proportion to the shares each country's firms have in Visaginas.
Lithuania is mandated at least a third of the shares. Estonia is particularly keen, as domestic oil shale generated electricity production, which has made the small country one of the most energy independent in the world, is highly CO2 polluting. Estonia has to comply with the EU's 2020 carbon emissions targets.
Poland, eastern Europe's big power, was to have participated in the Visaginas project, but relations between Poland and Lithuania have been bad recently, best appreciated by connoisseurs of east European historical and language politics feuds.
There is a 200,000 strong Polish minority in Lithuania, who have long been forced to spell their names according to Lithuanian orthographic rules. And the Lithuanian government wants the Lithuanian Poles' schools, which mostly teach their students in Polish, to have a greater Lithuanian language component. There has been a diplomatic spat with Warsaw about this and for now Poland is out of the project.
The Lithuanian hope is that the nuclear collaboration will lead to an open energy market with the other Baltic States and that this in turn will lead to a pan Scandinavian-Baltic energy market. Despite EU membership, the Baltic States have been an "energy island" within the EU, one that remains linked to the Russian grid.
Lithuanian officials are annoyed, though, about Russian plans to build two nuclear reactors in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, squeezed between Lithuania and Poland, and Belarus plans to build up to four reactors by 2025.
This is, Lithuanian officials argue, partly aimed at reducing the commercial viability of Visaginas, and Russia hopes to export nuclear-generated electricity too - perhaps to Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power by 2022.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Edited: 03 May 2012 at 10:09 PM by Pelle Neroth
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 03 May 2012 11:23 AM Energy
FuseTalk Standard Edition - © 1999-2013 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.
"Africa is abundant with engineering opportunity. We look at some of the projects and the problems."
- DECC-EDF makes yet another attempt to fund 3rd Generation Nuclear at any cost [12:04 pm 25/05/13]
- UK just six hours from running out of gas in March [09:02 pm 24/05/13]
- Ideas for a final year university project [05:55 pm 24/05/13]
- Fourth Generation Nuclear: Molten Salt Reactors [10:39 am 24/05/13]
- LED bulb efficiency - its all about the drivers not the LEDs? [09:52 am 24/05/13]
Tune into our latest podcast