Demands to close the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) down prematurely are unfounded, says Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius.
He believes they reflect political and commercial views rather than any safety concerns. In a statement, he said Lithuania had received “insistent proposals” from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and some officials from the European Commission (EC) to pass a resolution under which INPP’s unit 1 would be closed by the year 2002, and unit 2 by 2007. The statement recalls that the government had already initiated formation of an international expert group, and would also agree to a safety assessment of Ignalina by an EC-Lithuanian working group. Vagnorius accepted the conclusions drawn by the independent experts, that unit 1 could remain in operation for another 10-15 years and unit 2 for five years after that. He believed both the Lithuanian parliament and the President’s Office agreed to this. Ignalina is responsible for generating about 80% of Lithuania’s electricity.
Earlier, EC officials had told Lithuanian Economy Minister Vineas Babilius in Brussels that if Lithuania did not close Ignalina by 2005, Lithuania could not start negotiations to join the European Union (EU).
Brussels reportedly made it clear that any delay will wreck Lithuania’s hopes for admission in 1999. However, senior Lithuanian officials deny this. “The dialogue with the EU does not even give a hint of ultimatums,” a Lithuanian diplomat in Brussels said.
Babilius presented two scenarios for the plant’s closure. The first foresees a forced early closure in 2005. Under the second scenario the plant would shut down by 2015. He said Lithuania would need financial aid of 2.3 billion euros from international creditors to close the plant by 2005. Closure would cost Lithuania $2 billion while social effects would cost another $3.75 billion.