March 8, 2006

The heads of Baltic energy companies have signed a memorandum of intent, pledging joint investments in the construction of a new reactor as a replacement for the Ignalina nuclear power plant.

The signing ceremony took place at the Ignalina nuclear power plant on Wednesday.

The political decision to build a new reactor was made by the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on February 27 in the resort city of Trakai, Lithuania, 25 kilometres from Vilnius.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said, “Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian energy companies have been invited to invest in projects to build a new nuclear power plant.”

Although the agreement does not specify the place where the nuclear power plant is to be built, “it is necessary to use the existing capacities of the Ignalina nuclear power plant,” he said.

According to the June 2002 agreement, the Ignalina nuclear power plant will be closed by the end of 2009. The first unit was shut down on December 31, 2004. The plant exported electricity to Russia’s Kaliningrad region, Belarus, other Baltic countries, and Poland.

Under the document, the Baltic countries intend to work out a common energy strategy this year. They are planning “to analyse the possibilities of terminals and storages of liquefied gas, primarily in Latvia near the Lithuanian border.”

The director general of the Lithuanian company Lietuvos Energija, Rymantas Juozaitis, told Itar-Tass, “The closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in 2009, as demanded by the European Union, may exacerbate problems of energy supplies in the Baltic countries, and we must address them together already now.”

In his words, the memorandum calls for creating, on a parity basis, a committee that will prepare a feasibility study for the new reactor. Within the committee, “four working groups have been formed. They will have to prepare concrete proposals before November 1, 2006”, Juozaitis said.

The three Baltic countries also agreed to share expenditures at the first stage of work. “The new reactor, if its construction begins, can be commissioned not earlier than in 2017-2020,” Juozaitis said.