Another few – a New Nuclear Plant in Lithuania

August 31, 2007 at 1:00 pm 4 comments

Ignalina N-PlantThis blog writes a lot on the New Nuclear Plant project in Lithuania.  A weekly tabloid paper of the Russian minority in Lithuania Express Nedelia has published a commentary by Yuriy Dolinskiy: “New Nuclear Power Plant Still in the Mist”.  Lets have a look at the doubts of the Russian tabloid regarding the project of the century in Lithuania.  The BBC Monitoring Service translated the text.

The changes in the situation surrounding the construction of the new nuclear power plant at Ignalina show that serious disruptions may interfere with the process of solving the problems. If this happens, it will mean that Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has not thought out the strategy for dealing with the problems and the line of his own behavior thoroughly enough.The situation is fraught with serious consequences, such as delays in the construction works at the new nuclear power plant, problems with Lithuania‘s economy, and also serious changes in the balance of political forces. And all that could happen not just because of the active opposition, which, of course, uses additional social problems in its political fight. Actually, it has the right to do that. If the prime minister has made serious mistakes, his further political career may become complicated, and he will have to give way to another leader, possibly a representative of another party.

In the 28th issue of Express Nedelia from 12 July, we presented a theory that the Lithuanian elite, namely its top business representatives, are gambling on this politician to become president in 2009. The suspiciously rapid movement up the political ladder of a former official of the Communist Party Central Committee Ideology Department, the number two person in the Social Democratic Party, the person who represented the president during the negotiations with Russia on Kaliningrad transit, a defense minister, and now the prime minister and leader of the LSDP, makes us come to this conclusion.

We assume that his career is based on close contacts with the biggest financial structures with a Euro-Atlantic orientation. This theory is based on the observation of the prime minister’s energetic lobbying for the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant, a project in which the biggest business structures are certainly interested; after all the funds in the project will amount to many billions of euros. And if we are right about our assumptions, then the conclusion is as follows: For Kirkilas, the price of this issue is the presidency, therefore any serious problems in the implementation of the project are dangerous also to the party (LSDP), whose authority may be challenged because of the additional difficulties in the lives of the Lithuanians that may be caused by the decommissioning of the old Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.

Another thing that draws our attention is the haste with which the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant was adopted. The countries that are planning to participate in the construction project had asked for the adoption of the law to be postponed. Not all of them were happy with the distribution of the stock in favor of Lithuania. The prime minister had promised there would be no complications. The parliament voted in favor of the law. But the first problem immediately arose, which perhaps would not have been very important if it was not for the other ensuing problems.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski did not arrive for the symbolic meeting in Vilnius of the prime ministers of the countries that were planning to participate in the new nuclear power plant construction project. He gave a conventional explanation to his absence; he said he was very busy. However, we know that Poland is one of the major skeptics as far as the new nuclear power plant’s stock distribution is concerned.

The further it goes, the worst it gets. Estonia, whose participation in the project was not even doubted, suddenly decided to have a referendum on its participation in the project. Does this mean that Tallinn has started to have doubts and that it is going to use the referendum as an excuse to withdraw from the project or, at least, to review its conditions?

Actually, why should the new nuclear power plant be built in Lithuania? It will have to be built almost from scratch anyway. Could this be the logic of the Estonians, who are famous for their pragmatic attitude toward the economy?
Unlike in Estonia, economic decisions in Lithuania are often influenced by politics. This is quite obvious when we look at the Lithuanian oil sector, in which the country tends to complicate the situation so as not to broaden economic cooperation with Russia. The nuclear power plant project also took an unexpected turn: President Valdas Adamkus invited Ukraine to participate in the project. One thing here is very telling: The president did not invite Russia, which has world experience in the construction and operation of nuclear power facilities.

It is very strange, because it was not in Russia but in Ukraine that the Chernobyl catastrophe took place. Since Russia is blamed for the negative things that happened in the USSR, why should not Ukraine assume its part of the responsibility for the Soviet period? However, the main thing here is, that the law on the construction of the new nuclear power plant has already been adopted.  The stock has been distributed. How is it possible to invite in a new partner? Or does it mean that the president has started doubting the participation of one of the partners and has decided to find a substitute for a possibly withdrawing partner?

There has been talk about the Swedes, who would also like to participate in the project. It looks like we should not have adopted the law in such haste. Poland is quite capable of reckless behavior, and the reason for that is not just their ambition to change the stock distribution. This country is in a political crisis; new parliamentary elections are imminent. It is not clear who will rule the government and what decisions they will make. Estonia, for example, has actually started to have doubts…

Moreover, not everything is clear about Latvia. It seemed that everything was decided, but the country has started public discussions of the Program of the Evaluation of the Impact of the New Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania on the Environment, prepared by the Lithuanian Energy Institute. This is reminiscent of the referendum idea in Estonia.

We should pay attention to the fact that this document does not rule out the possibility that, under certain negative circumstances, the project might be abandoned! If even Lithuanian experts are taking such an option into consideration, we should remember how the Latvian Greens protested against the construction of an oil terminal in Būtingė. They tried to stop its construction, citing only environmental danger. Whereas they were actually fighting for the primacy of the Ventspils terminal, an enterprise that did not need any competition. Again, could it be that Latvian politicians are questioning why the new nuclear power plant has to be constructed in Lithuania.

The Lithuanian opposition has already used the potential of these doubts to their own benefit. Labour Party leader Kęstutis Daukšys has publicly declared that the situation surrounding the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania is not clear. In his opinion, it will be completed not by 2015, as planned, but by 2017 at best. We have also heard about other dates, for example, 2020. A number of organizational issues, without which it is impossible to start the construction works, are actually only in the initial stage.A big financial-political game is under way. However, for the Lithuanian residents the price of his game is actually their own wellbeing.

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Economics, Energy, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Poland, Politics, Russia, Sweden. Tags: .

Lithuanians perceive themselves as a part of the West Urbonas’ 2nd attempt to cross the Baltic Sea ended up in fiasco

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. klaus  |  August 31, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Actually, Estonia did not decide to have a referendum. True, some opposition parties are talking about the need for one.

    Reply
  • 2. Ruslanas Iržikevičius  |  August 31, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for claryfing that. About a month ago some of the Lithuanian media outlets had mentioned that Estonia ‘might’ call a referendum, but the Ekspress Nidely, announced that Estonians WILL call the referendum.

    I am not entirely sure of the paper’s political and financial affiliations but I would not be surprised if one day it will come out that it is sponsored by the Russia’s embassy in Vilnius, or through some ‘cultural’ organization. However, some of the articles in the paper are interesting to read.

    Hence, it would be interesting to find out which parties in Estonia would like to initiate a debate in calling a referendum on the issue. I would not like to appear noticing ‘Russia’s hand’ everywhere but it is clear that a successful constriction of plant is not in its interest, to put it mildly.

    I would not be surprising that a ‘green movement to prevent a Chernobyl II’ will became a very active force in the Baltic countries. That might be even ‘inspired’ via the Scandinavian greens.

    In Lithuania’s case the greens popping up once Lithuania starts to build a strategic objects. Such a case was during the ‘Butinge’ terminal. A Latvian green/Chernobyl movement ‘Livonia’ even came to Lithuania’s Ignalina to protest (cannot remember for what reason). Analogical Lithuanian colleagues came to join them. Then, the Lithuanian national TV’s journalist unveiled that this movement had strong links to Russia…

    I agree that there are many environmental concerns in Lithuania. However, Lithuanian greens became only active when Lithuania is trying to break out of dependence on Russian recourses. It could be only coincidence, but…

    Reply
  • 3. klaus  |  September 4, 2007 at 3:50 am

    Centre Party has been talking about referendum most actively. Centre Party which gained 26% of votes in parliamentary elections (March 2007) is considered left-leaning and populist, it’s support among ethnic Estonians is in decline (less than 10%) due to it’s leader’s behaviour during Bronze Soldier crisis, partnership with Yedinaya Rossiya also undermines their support. On the other hand, some 70–80 percent of local Russian population supports the party. I must say though, that Centre Party has not expressed outspoken adversity against the nuclear plant — their populist stance does not allow to do it.

    Another opposition party, Estonian Greens (gained 7% of votes in March), have expressed their support to Centre Party’s idea, being outspokenly doubtful about the whole plan. Greens have been promoting big wind parks and alternate energy sources claiming that participication in Lithuanian nuclear project undermines Estonian options to choose alternative paths. I won’t repeat whole rhetoric here, let’s just mention that I’m a member of Green Party myself, but I do not share it’s views on this question.

    Reply
  • 4. Ruslanas Iržikevičius  |  September 4, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Klaus,

    Thank you very much for very useful info. It appears that your info only reinforces some of my concerns mentioned above. I heard about Mr. Savisaar and his flirting with Kremlin, and to be frank, I am not surprised of his party’s opposition to the N-Plant in Lithuania.

    In my opinion, the rise of the popularity of the Green party in Estonia is more to do with the intensive publicity on the climate warming. I guess, since Estonia (at least its Estonian part in Tallinn area) is more integrated into the Western Information sphere (due to Estonian’s proximity to the Finnish) than Lithuania our various green movements and your Green party differ.

    But there is a danger that the Western Green party in Estonia, could be subjected to the Kremlin’s influence ‘in opposing the Baltic Chernobyl’. You have to be careful with this.

    Yesterday there was a Latvian green’s protest on Latvian border protesting against the N-plant’s construction.

    Regards,

    Reply

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