The Ignalina nuclear power plant was shut down on 21 May for at least one month. Unit 2 has been under repair since late March and will not be back on line until July. The nuclear safety inspectorate, VATESI, delayed the issue of a licence for operating Unit 1 due to the failure to complete its safety programme by 17 May and it will be restarted at the same time.

The closure has forced Lithuania to sharply reduce electricity exports to Belarus. The director of the commercial department of Lietuvos Energija [Lithuanian Energy], Romualdas Ramoska, said exports to Belarus would be cut from around 300 million kWh to 60 million kWh monthly.

At the beginning of this year, Belarus owed Lithuania 450 million litas ($112.5 million) for electricity supplied but Belarus only paid 19 million litas during April and May. Lithuania has supplied electricity to Belarus without interruption since the beginning of 1998. Last year, Belarus took 6 TWh of Lithuania’s production of 17.6 TWh.

To satisfy basic demand during the closure Lithuania will draw on its 1800 kW plant at Elektreniai, in additional to various smaller combined heat and power (CHP) and hydroelectric plants. Switching to the more expensive fossil fuels will cost the company about 10 million litas ($2.5million).