Kirkilas serious about Ignalina extension

  • 2007-12-06
  • By Mike Collier, in cooperation with BNS

VILNIUS -- LithuanianPrime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas is warning that if his government is forced to quit, the opportunity to extend the life of the Ignalina nuclear power station could be lost.

Kirkilas has been facing criticism that his government is being too slow in addressing the thorny issue of a reprieve for the atomic plant which is due to be decommissioned by 2009. fears are growing within Lithuania that if the planned shutdown goes ahead, Lithuania could face severe energy shortages as a replacement plant will not be ready until 2012 at the earliest.

But Kirkilas believes that calls for his government to resign are just worsening the situation and would destroy the negotiating process with the EU.

"This would diminish Lithuanian chances ofholding negotiations on the matter," Kirkilas said at the Seimas on Dec. 6.

"Today my standpoint is rather optimistic - I believewe will manage to persuade many countries to support us. However, there are countries- Austria, probably Germany - which so far have another opinion of nuclear energy, they will bea tough cookie," said the prime minister.

Rasa Jukneviciene, member of the Conservative party and theparliamentary National Security and Defense Committee, reproached the primeminister over the government's failure to pursue talkswith the EU and its members about handling the complex energy situationfollowing Ignalina's switch-off

"Our government was the first tostart the dialogue with the European Commission," Kirkilas responded, adding that he has already held preliminary conversationswith his counterparts from several countries.

The decommissioning of Ignalina was included as a condition of Lithuania's accession to the EU in 2004. Kirkilas will face a tough job selling the idea of an extended life for the Chernobyl-type reactor.