VILNIUS - Renewed signs of support from Poland and Estonia for a new nuclear plant in Lithuania have once again brought the subject to the headlines, though the European Union's energy commissioner warned of government involvement in the project, which would cost more than 2 billion euros.
PSE, Poland's national energy company, has reportedly expressed interest in building a new plant to replace the existing Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which will be decommissioned in 2009.
The Lietuvos Rytas daily reported last week that the company won the backing of Poland's new right-of-center government, which is leery of over-dependence on Russian energy. What's more, Poland's involvement would revive the stalled Lithuanian-Polish power bridge project, the daily noted.
Furthermore, the European Union has urged Warsaw to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at its coal-fired plants, while the country might face a deficit of power generation capacities around 2020.
At the same time, Estonian President Arnold Ruutel told Lithuanian Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas that Estonia was thinking to invest in a new atomic plant in Lithuania.
"The president spoke about joint energy projects, expressed interest in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. He thinks that Estonia could contribute to the construction," the parliamentary speaker told a press conference Nov. 28.
"Wishes were expressed at the level of ideas. As soon as a feasibility study is drafted, it will be possible to discuss it more specifically: how much, when, where. But today he [the Estonian president] expressed a willingness, and this is a lot. Funding was not discussed, but they could certainly contribute to such construction in terms of funding as well," Paulauskas said.
Estonia will have to phase out its shale-fired power plants in Narva over the next decade and is therefore looking for alternative sources of power.
Meanwhile, European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, a Latvian, said last week that the Latvian government should not invest in a new nuclear reactor in Lithuania. He told journalists that, in a free market, investments should come from private sources, not the state. "If there is not any interest, then the state should not get involved in building the nuclear reactor," Piebalgs said.
Latvian officials have voiced opposing opinions about the issue. Both Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Latvenergo executives say it would be in the state's interests to take part in building a new nuclear station, as this would provide an opportunity to purchase electricity for a lower price and ensure the necessary amounts of electric power.
Currently, Latvia is importing electricity from Lithuania, Estonia and Russia.
According to a Eurobarometer survey, as many as 60 percent of Lithuanians are favorably disposed toward nuclear energy (only Hungarian and Swedish residents have a more favorable opinion), while 27 percent are against it, as compared with the EU average of 55 percent.