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Odds stacked against Ignalina extension

  • 2008-02-28
  • Mike Collier in association with BNS

HOW LONG LEFT? Ignalina is due to go offline at the end of 2009

VILNIUS -- The Lithuanian government's special negotiator, chargedwith persuading the European Union not to flick the 'off' switch of theIgnalina Nuclear Power Plant, is in downbeat mode even at the start of histask.

"If they [the EU] do not agree this fall on something to do for us, weshould not expect anything afterwards," Aleksandras Abisala toldjournalists on Feb. 28, stressing that his task should be regarded as a matterof diplomacy rather than an energy assignment.

He added that the chances of getting Brussels to agree to an extension wereabout 1 in 20.

Abisala believes talks with the EU are onlypossible in search of political solutions to the situation that Lithuania will be in after 2009 when the Ignalina plant is supposed to stopsupplying energy to the Baltic grid.

He stressed the need to reach an agreement before fall meeting of theEuropean Council scheduled for November.

Commenting on the legal possibilities to agree on the extension of Ignalina'soperations, he said that pressure would not help Lithuania to achieveits goal.

"We have a plan A - to search for political solutions, table thesituation to the European Commission and members of the European Union. I amconvinced that they will find ways to apply legal standards. We should refrainfrom pressure. I am going to search for solutions, not to exert pressure,"said Abisala.

Even if the efforts to win an extension of operations at Ignalina fail, heexpressed confidence that "other forms of compensations orassistance" would be found. Decomissioning Ignalina is already costing EUtaxpayers around 5 billion euros.

The main thrust of Abisala's EU effort is to point out the economic damagethat would be wrought if Ignalina shuts down with no alternative energy supplyin place.

Abisala noted that the country will lack electricity and therefore will bedependent on Russia as its sole supplier of electricity and gas.

"Up until now, the argument in talks on extension of Ignalinaoperations was that it was a problem of Lithuania. We will try to provethat it is a problem for the entire region and the EU," said Abisala, a formerprime minister who has worked as a private consultant in a few energy projectsin recent years.