New Projects, Nuclear, Reactors

Lithuania shuts down sole nuclear plant under EU deal

2 January 2010 – Lithuania shut down its Soviet-era nuclear plant on 31 December under an EU deal, leaving it set to rely on Russia for the majority of its power supply.

The plant, located in Visaginas in eastern Lithuania, provided 70 per cent of the Baltic state’s electricity. It gradually went offline from 8.00 pm (1800 GMT) Thursday.

“At 11.00 pm (2100 GMT) everything went offline. It all went according to plan,” Viktor Sevaldin, director of the 26-year-old plant, told AFP by telephone.

It is similar to the one that exploded at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident.

Lithuania, which won independence from the Soviet Bloc in 1991, agreed to shut the plant by 2010 in order to win admission to the EU in May 2004. One of the two reactors closed in December 2004.

Vilnius later tried and failed to convince Brussels to let it keep the plant open until a replacement is ready -something not expected until 2018-2020.

Lithuania will turn to previously mothballed gas and oil fired power stations. But the former will have to rely on supplies from Russia, whose relations with Lithuania are rocky.

Lithuania plans hook-ups with the Polish and Swedish power grids, also enabling electricity imports from elsewhere in the EU.

It has also launched the tender for a new nuclear plant at Visaginas, a project involving Poland, Latvia and Estonia and expected to be ready by 2018-2020. It is due to cost three to EUR5bn ($4.3 to $7.2bn).

Decommissioning the current plant is set to take 25 years and cost around EUR1bn.