VILNIUS - Lithuanian officials flew to Brussels this week for the first series of consultations concerning the reliability of the Baltic energy system after the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant's first reactor closure, scheduled for late 2005.
The discussions will take place against a backdrop of concern among top Lithuanian officials that the Baltic energy grid could undergo a crisis if alternative energy supplies are not culled together in time for the reactor's closure.
In late October the Economy Ministry sent a letter to the aforementioned directorate asking technical experts to provide relevant consultations. In the meantime, President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas agreed that the government should commission an expert task group to clarify all and any circumstances that might emerge in the regional energy system following the first unit's closure.
Still, unlike the prime minister, Adamkus believes that Lithuania should stick to its obligations to close the first unit of INPP by 2005 in accordance with the provisions of Lithuania's EU accession treaty.
Brazauskas, for his part, is advocating a six-month extension of the reactor's shutdown, arguing that it would secure reliable functioning of the Baltic region's energy system until the completion of new power stations in Kaliningrad and Riga.
Some analysts warn that the common Baltic energy system could run into capacity problems during the winter should the second unit of INPP become inoperative with the region's extremely complex electricity distribution coming under strain.
The task group will include Arturas Dainius, secretary of Lithuania's Ministry of Economy, and executive officers of Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), the power utility, Dainius told the Baltic News Service.
"This is regular work. We will see the reaction of commission officials at the first meeting," he said.
The INPP has been a boon for Lithuania, as its kilowatt-deficit neighbors continue to buy electricity in record-breaking amounts each year.
This year, however, scheduled maintenance at the nuclear power plant has caused electricity exports by Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), the state-run power utility, to plunge 8.7 percent (to 5.33 billion kWh) in the first 10 months of 2004.
Lietuvos Energija supplied 3 billion kWh of electricity to Russia and 1.55 billion kWh to Belarus during the 10-month period, while exports to Latvia, Poland and Estonia reached 452.7 million kWh, 210.5 million kWh and 38.5 million kWh, respectively.