Ignalina director general Victor Shevaldin and the director of the Nuclear Safety Unit at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Vince Novak, signed the first grant agreement which will fund project management and engineering services at Ignalina, as well as support the licensing aspects of the decommissioning and closure process. Shevaldin said: “We look forward to the rapid implementation of this decommissioning work. This financing will help in the preparation of the decommissioning plan, including the environmental impact assessment and technical specifications for the new decommissioning facilities to ensure safe management and storage of radioactive waste.” The EBRD administers the fund, set up last year by representatives of 11 countries that have agreed to contribute towards the closure of Ignalina. The contributors are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Several other countries said they would contribute since the fund was set up. Luxembourg subsequently pledged E1 million. At the International Pledging Conference in Vilnius in June 2000 more than E207 million were pledged for Ignalina decommissioning support, including E165 million funded directly from the EU’s budget.

Vilnius agreed last year to decommission the plant as a precondition to beginning talks on EU membership, even though it has spent $220 million over the last decade to upgrade and modernise the two RBMK reactors.

A report by Austin Texas forecast centre says that decommissioning will increase Lithuania’s dependence on Russia. Almost 76% of Lithuania’s domestic energy needs would be generated at thermal electric power stations, which import heavy fuel oil from Russia. According to the report, Lithuania will not be threatened by an energy crisis following closure but will need to implement far-reaching projects of energy and power station networks development and reconstruction to ensure stable electricity supply.