VILNIUS-TALLINN - Confusion arose this week around the issue of nuclear power, with a leading daily paper falsely suggesting that many leading Baltic utilities were lobbying to have the closure of Ignalina's first reactor postponed.
The Lietuvos Rytas daily reported on Aug. 3 that Eesti Energia, Latvenergo, Russia's Unified Energy Systems and Belenergo, Belarus' national utility, had recently sent Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas a letter saying that the five countries' energy industries would no longer be reliable after the shutdown of the first unit of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant at the end of the year.
However, the same day officials from Eesti Energia and Latvenergo announced that they had refused to sign a petition to postpone the reactor shutdown.
"We categorically refused to sign it," Eesti Energia board member and technical director Lembit Vali said.
"There are no technical reasons for the postponement of the closure of reactor No. 1," he added. "Everything [in the Baltic energy system] will function perfectly without that reactor."
Vali explained the petition evolved out of business interests on the part of Lithuania, since the country exports cheap Ignalina-generated electricity to Russia and it is in Russia's interest to buy it at a low price.
Indeed, electricity exports have increased steadily in recent months and have become a major source of revenue for the country.
According to Lietuvos Rytas, closure of the reactor should be postponed until the completion of a new combination power plant in Kaliningrad. The paper also wrote that several Lithuanian institutions had received assignments to develop arguments that would help the country persuade Brussels to extend the reactor's life.
The 450-MV Kaliningrad power plant is expected to go into operation in November 2005.
During accession talks, Lithuania promised the European Union that it would close reactor No. 1 by the end of 2004. The closure of reactor No 2 has been planned for the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, INPP reported this week that the second turbo-generator of the first reactor had resumed operations after a week's maintenance, enabling Lithuania to renew electricity exports.
"The first unit of INPP has reached its full capacity, and we have relaunched scheduled exports of electricity to Russia, Latvia and Estonia," Rymantas Juozaitis, head of the Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) power utility, said on Aug. 2.