VILNIUS 's Lithuania decommissioned the first of Ignalina's two nuclear reactors on New Year's Eve in accordance to the agreement reached with the European Union during pre-accession negotiations.
The reactor, a RBMK Chernobyl-type unit, was shut down after over two decades of operations. It was launched on Dec. 31, 1983, while the plant's second reactor started in August 1987. That one is to be decommissioned in 2009.
Lithuania committed itself to closing Ignalina's first reactor in pre-accession talks with the European Commission. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading and investments since independence, the two nuclear reactors, which each have capacity of 1,300 megawatts, have been considered unsafe after the 1986 Chernobyl.
In 2001-2003, the EU granted Lithuania 828 million litas (240 million euros) for preparatory work involved in shutting down the reactor. In addition, the EU has approved 1.1 billion litas in assistance for the 2004-2006 period, and the European Commission has proposed granting another 2.8 billion litas in 2007-2013.
After the closure of the first unit, Ignalina now generates about 70 percent of Lithuania's energy output.
Top Lithuanian officials 's including the president and the prime minister 's are keen to see that the country retain its nuclear power capacity. Electricity exports have been a major source of export revenue for the state and helped Lithuania to remain independent in terms of energy needs.