Lithuanian Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said that Lithuania would not shut down the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant until 2012 because of the economic ramifications and the fact that the shutdown would result in huge carbon emission increases due to the switch to dirtier forms of energy.
During a meeting of the European Union's Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, Navickas said the only alternative to keeping the plant open was to fund Lithuania with billions of euros to help cope with energy dependence and the building of energy links to its neighbors.
The minister stressed that a critical 2010-2012 situation in Lithuania would jeopardize the country's energy security by making it fully dependent on a single energy supplier.
Lithuania argues that circumstances surrounding the country have changed since the signing of the EU Accession treaty. These circumstances include energy isolation, rising energy prices and the fact that Lithuania already pays a lot for gas.
"We will have to additionally spend almost a billion euros for acquisition of energy resources instead of spending the moneys on improvement of energy security: links, energy efficiency, and so on," Navickas said.
President Valdas Adamkus has spoken on various occasions about how Lithuania could wrangle a deal with the EU because of the changes in the political and economic environment since joining the union.
Ministry spokespeople declared that in Lithuania's security interests, INPP could not be decommissioned before 2012.
The minister did express hope that a solution to the situation would be found before the end of this year.
"If Lithuania and the European Commission fail to come up with realistic instruments to solve the situation, we will not have another option but to postpone the INPP decommissioning after 2009. The years 2010-2012 will be the most difficult for us; therefore, the postponement date is 2012," Navickis said.
Lithuanians voted on the referendum to extend the lifespan of INPP on Oct. 12, but not enough voters turned out, making the referendum invalid. More that 50 percent of voters are needed to reach quorum.
INPP generates 70 percent of Lithuania's energy and provides the country's energy independence and security.
Secondary to energy security, environmental issues were brought up during the meeting in Luxembourg. "If a major decision defending Lithuania's interests is not worked out, Lithuania will not be able to approve the climate change package," Navickas said. He said it was not a threat, but a likely reality.
"There has been increasing understanding in the European Commission of our difficult situation after the decommissioning," he said. The European Commission restated before the meeting that it would not consider extending the lifespan but was willing to help.
The EC spokesman for energy, Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, told Lithuanian national radio Thursday that the EC was ready to hear the opinion of the Lithuanian administration and take every measure to help in case of any unexpected problems regarding security of energy supplies. The extension of the INPP lifespan was not among the projected measures.
Espuny said that the EC will do everything in its power to ensure INPP is shut down at the end of 2009 and threatened sanctions against Lithuania if it does not comply.
Over the past seven years, Lithuania has received more than 500 million euros for INPP's needs, with another 800 million euros, to be allocated by 2013, intended to compensate for the aftereffects of the shutdown.