Alternatives for a new power plant at Visaginas, Lithuania

Alternatives for a new power plant at Visaginas, Lithuania

Lithuania’s planned replacement for the Ignalina nuclear plant has been called into question due to legal rulings which have damaged the project’s investment company. Ignalina’s remaining operating reactor, unit 2, has to shut down by the end of 2009 as part of the country’s accession to the European Union.

Lietuvos Elektros Organizacja (LEO LT) is the holding company for Visagino Atomine Elektrine (VAE), which is trying to move the project forward. But Lithuania’s constitutional court ruled that LEO LT’s structure violates the country’s constitution.

LEO LT was set up under legislation passed in 1997 to allow the project to begin. But in March, the constitutional court ruled that LEO LT’s structure did not comply with the country’s constitution because it doesn’t make sure that the state interest in a new plant would be protected. For that reason, it was deemed to be a risk to general public welfare.

A VAE spokeswoman said: “LEO LT is a national electricity company that implements strategic energy projects in the country as authorised by the laws and other legislative documents of the country.

“The constitutional court has taken its conclusion about the establishment of LEO LT. Further decisions are to be taken by LEO LT shareholders.”

In addition, LEO LT has been through a management reshuffle. Since April 2009, the new chairman of the board and chief executive officer of LEO LT is Rimantas Vaitkus. Members of the board are Valdas Bancevicius (technologies director), Ramunas Biciulaitis (finance director), Rokas Masiulis (business development director), Sarunas Vasiliauskas (strategic projects director).

VAE, though, is giving the impression of ‘business as usual’ and claims the ongoing legal issues are not having any effect on work on the proposed plant. All preparatory works are being carried out by VAE, which is 100% owned by LEO LT.

The spokeswoman said: “The company continues to perform preparatory works of strategic projects intensively and is adhering to its timetable in order to implement them on time to ensure country’s energy independence.”

On 21 April, the Ministry of Environment gave permission to construct the new Visaginas plant, after it reviewed the environmental impact assessment. The assessment has looked at BWR, PWR and PHWR technologies, although the choice will not be know until after the procurement process, which begins in 2011.

When asked if the Visaginas schedule is still on track to organise a construction plan this summer, and to sign a strategic investor as partner in the autumn, a spokesperson for VAE said: “All preparatory works for the new Visaginas nuclear power plant are being pursued strictly to the schedule.” Such works include a transportation study, evaluation of the construction sites against International Atomic Energy Agency safety requirements, territorial planning and other work.

According to the plan, by the beginning of 2012 all preparatory works should be finished and construction work will be started. The first unit of Visaginas is scheduled to start electricity production in 2018.

She went on to say that LEO LT’s tasks are to connect the Lithuanian energy system with the Polish and Swedish systems, construct the new nuclear power plant, and ensure reliable and uninterrupted operation of the national electricity grid.

The spokesperson also said that agreement had been reached on the location of the interconnector between the Baltic states and Sweden. On 27 April, the prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia agreed that the cable should go from Klaipeda, Lithuania to either Hemsjö or Nybro, Sweden. (The final choice is up to Swedish utility Svenska Kraftnät).

The interconnector project will be taken forward by energy companies from Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden on the basis of three equal shares. It will allow the Baltic states’ energy market to connect with the Scandinavian ones, specifically Nord Pool, which is owned by Norwegian Statnett and Svenska Kraftnät.

Nord Pool links Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway’s electricity grids and accounts for over 60% of the total value of the Nordic region’s power consumption. Nord Pool also provides a carbon market, being the first exchange in Europe to offer standard contracts for emission allowances and carbon credits. It will therefore be of significant benefit for the Baltic states to have access to this market.

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