Lithuania still sees new nuclear plant in 2015 -PM

Nerijus Adomaitis and Patrick Lannin
November 26 2007

VILNIUS, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas believes Lithuania can still build a new nuclear power plant by 2015 but uncertainties over the timetable and capacity remain, he said on Monday.

The project, led by Lithuania and involving Latvia, Estonia and Poland, has already become bogged down by Warsaw’s demand for one third of the new plant’s output.
“We are keeping to the timetable of 2015 but it is difficult to answer very exactly,” Kirkilas said in an interview to Reuters.

He said the timetable would depend on the reactor’s type, and its capacity would be decided by the results of an environmental impact study due in August 2008.
“If we can build a plant of 3,200 megawatts as we plan, then everyone can be satisfied. If the study says there is less capacity, than we face new problems how to share the capacity,” Kirkilas said.

Poland wanted no less than 1,000-1,200 megawatts, with Latvia and Estonia eyeing some 500-600 megawatts and Lithuania about 1,000 megawatts, he added.

Kirkilas said he would discuss the nuclear project and the power link to Poland with its new Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is due in Vilnius on Friday.

“I have no doubts that Poland is going to take part in the project. The one reason is that Poland has plans to build its own nuclear power plant, they speak about 2025, and it needs to gain experience,” Kirkilas said.

Apart from uncertainties over the timetable and the capacity, Lithuania’s government had problems in creating a unified energy company.

The government wants state-owned power group Lietuvos energija to take over grid operators VST and RST creating a company with share capital of more than 8 billion Lithuanian litas ($3.44 billion).

Kirkilas said the merger would give the clout to raise finance for Lithuania’s share of the nuclear project, which it wants to be at one third.

But VST’s owner has said it was against the idea of being taken over and wanted a completely new company to be formed instead.

The government is expected to decide on the further negotiations with VST’s owner, NDX energija, this week.

The new nuclear power station would replace the Soviet-era Ignalina nuclear plant, which has to close at the end of 2009.

Kirkilas said Lithuania had several options to fill the electricity gap after Ignalina’s closure, including power imports from Russia and Ukraine or boosting domestic production.

In that case the Baltic state will need to increase natural gas consumption by 2 billion cubic metres from 3.5 bcm a year now, he added.

Lithuania was completely dependent on Moscow for gas and Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom had said it would increase prices to western European levels next year.

Kirkilas said he did not expect the price to rise to more than $300 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Lithuania had been paying $240 in October, up from $190 at the start of the year, an economy ministry official said recently.

Editing by Anthony Barker)