Will power pow-wow persuade Poles?

The Baltic Times
Jan 29, 2008
In cooperation with BNS

VILNIUS – Economics minsters from across the region will converge on Vilnius next week to discuss the most pressing issues about Baltic energy.

Ministers from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland will finally all be in the same room at the same time on Feb. 4, raising the possibility that some substantive progress could be made regarding the proposed new Ignalina nuclear power plant.
The ministers plan to speak about energy policies in their countries and discuss development of the energy sector.

During the meeting, representatives of Lithuanian energy utility Lietuvos Energija will present their thoughts on Ignalina, plus a proposed Polish-Swedish ‘pwer bridge’ connection and a link from Lithuania to Poland which would end the Baltic region’s status as an ‘energy island’.

At present there is a nuclear power plant in operation in Ignalina,Lithuania, but its first reactor was shut down on Dec. 31, 2005, and the second reactor must be shut down before December 31, 2009. Closing the Ignalina plant, which uses the Soviet-built RBMK reactors perceived as unsafe in Europe, was one of the conditions forLithuania’s admission to the EU.

Baltic energy companies Lietuvos Energija, Latvenergo and Eesti Energia agreed in 2006 to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. The plan was to complete the plant by 2015, although delays in taking the project any further mean that current estimates suggest a completion date of 2018 at the earliest and possibly 2020. Poland has also been roped in as a likely fourth partner, though no Polish officials have signed any binding agreement on the subject yet.

A fast decision on the construction of new nuclear power plant might be helpful for Lithuania’s strategy of arguing for an extensionof the existing plant’s life, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said on Jan. 29.

“First of all Lithuania has to state that it is building a new plant together with Latvia, Estonia and Poland – this is the very first step, which is necessary. With this step taken, the chances are still scarce, although greater than before. Then we could state that the extension of the second unit of INPP would only be temporary,” Kirkilas said in a radio interview.

Perhaps the EU might agree with the extension of INPP operations so thatLithuania and other countries importing INPP energy were not left without a source of electricy generation, he added.

Kirkilas reiterated his belief that the Seimas would pass the necessary amendments to the nuclear power plant legislation later this week. The new amendments set a framework for the establishment of national investor company Leo LT as a new parent company, which will be created in concert with private equity NDX Energija.

“We are seeking for as broad agreement as possible, the votes for should not only include the ruling coalition since this is a long-lasting project, it will be implemented by at least several Cabinets. In any case, each party has its own opinion and decision,” he said.

The parliament should vote on the amendments, which provide for the establishment of Leo LT as a new parent company, later this week.

If the amendments are passed, the government and NDX Energija would own 61.7 percent and 38.3 percent of Leo LT, respectively.

The national investor company would be charged with constructing the nuclear power plant and the power links with Sweden and Poland.