VILNIUS - The Lithuanian prime minister has said that he believes he will be able to convince the European Union to extend the life of the country's controversial nuclear power plant.
In a Sept. 2 radio interview, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said that he may be successful in his bid to extend the life of the plant, but only if Lithuania is able to complete a long-anticipated energy link with Sweden by 2012.
"If we managed to build this [energy] bridge by 2012, we would have to close the [Ignalina] atomic power station," the prime minister said.
As a part of its accession agreement, Lithuania promised to shut down its Soviet era nuclear power plant at Ignalina due to safety concerns. After joining the bloc, however, many in the country expressed fears that it would be left without a power source after the slated 2009 shutdown.
Though there are talks of building a power bridge with Sweden to help lift some of the burden, Latvia and Lithuania have been unable to agree on which country the link would be based in.
The Lithuanian population is set to hold a public referendum on whether to extend the life of the Ignalina nuclear plant. The referendum is set to be held in conjunction with the parliamentary elections this October.
A recent poll of 500 Lithuanian citizens conducted by Apklausos.LT found that about 74 percent of the population is in favor of the move, while 10 percent were against it and 15 percent were undecided. The high level of support means that the referendum is likely to pass if it manages to achieve quorum.
However, Ignas Staskevicius, a member of the supervisory board at the energy holding company Leo LT, has said that the delays in the project are "threatening" and could result in huge losses for shareholders in the project.
"I understand that a lot of factors are at work, including geopolitics, technological access and financing issues. But time is very important and I have threatening signs related to delay and big losses it can bring about," the board member told the news magazine Veidas.
The news of a possible extension to the nuclear plant's lifetime came alongside the official registration of a company created to build the plant.
Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant was registered with the national Register of Legal Entities on Aug. 29. The company, which will be headed by Marius Grinevicius, has an authorized starting capital of 12.75 million litas (3.7 million euros).
Leo LT, a Lithuanian umbrella company covering a range of state-owned energy concerns including Visaginas, has said that it is currently in the process of raising more money for its newest subsidiary.
"For the construction of the nuclear power facility, borrowed funds will mostly be used. The suppliers of reactors could also provide a part of the funds. Some states, such as Canada, the U.S. or France, are involved in lobbyism to promote their reactor suppliers. And certain loans are provided," Rymantas Juozaitis, the CEO of Leo LT, said at a press conference in early September.
Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant has chosen to use a crane as its logo despite the fact that environmentalists warn that the new plant could harm wildlife in the region 's particularly large birds.