LITHUANIA: Parliament agrees to shut down Ignalina reactor by 2005

Lithuania's Parliament has voted to shut down one of two reactors at the Ignalina nuclear power station by 2005. Decommissioning of Ignalina is the EU's primary prerequisite to Lithuania's accession.

A decision on the future of the second reactor will be taken in 2004. The EU has requested shutdown by 2009. Ignalina’s first reactor was commissioned in 1983 and the second in 1987. The reactors are of similar design to Chernobyl’s, but Ignalina’s management describes the RBMK-1500 reactors as differing from the “RBMK-1000 plants operating in Russia and Ukraine not only by a higher nominal power level, but also by several improved safety features”.

“Some of the politicians said [on the day of the vote] that our reactor is not safe, but we have experts from all over the world who say that it is one of the safest reactors of its kind,” a Ignalina spokesperson told edie.

Despite Ignalina management’s insistence that its power station is safe, its spokesperson said that the decision to decommission the first reactor was not a surprise and that the future of Ignalina is regularly debated in the nation’s press.

Lithuania’s is heavily dependent on nuclear energy. “Last year, we produced 72% of the country’s electricity,” confirms the spokesperson, “but we can’t export our electricity to Europe because we don’t have any lines to Europe.” Ignalina-generated electricity is exported to Belorussia and, to a lesser extent, to Estonia and Russia. Belorussia has recently been unable to pay for the electricity it has received from Ignalina.

In 1993, Lithuania set a world record for the share of nuclear-generated electricity produced in a single country, with nuclear power providing 88.1% of the nation’s electricity.

The agreement to decommission one of Ignalina’s reactors by 2005, taken by Lithuania’s Parliament on 2 May, depends on financing from the West. The EU has said it will contribute and a donor conference is scheduled for June.

According to Ignalina’s March 2000 newsletter, the station generated 2,199 million kWh between January and March this year. Seven “below scale event deviations” were recorded during the same period.

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