Merkel supports nuclear plant

  • 2010-09-08
  • Staff and wire reports

VILNIUS - Fresh from her controversial announcement that Germany aims to postpone abandoning nuclear energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sept. 6 in Vilnius threw Berlin’s weight behind a planned four-nation power plant in Lithuania, reports AFP. “We’ll do everything we can to ensure that this construction gets backing,” Merkel said. German authorities could help bring potential investors on board. She did not elaborate.

At the end of 2009, Lithuania shut down its sole nuclear power plant, the Soviet-era Ignalina facility which provided the bulk of the country’s electricity. The plant was similar to the one that exploded at Chernobyl in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident, and was shut down under the terms of Lithuania’s 2004 admission to the European Union.
Lithuania had tried and failed to convince Brussels to let it keep the plant open until a replacement, being built along with neighbors Latvia, Estonia and Poland, is ready. Progress in the new project has been sluggish, however, and the plant is now not expected to be online until 2020.

“We would like very much for Germany to have a real interest, maybe even participate in the construction. But at least political support, and European support, means a lot,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said alongside Merkel.
“We would expect European investments very much, but the very fact that the construction of the new power plant receives political support is a positive step for Lithuania and the whole region in their attempt to guarantee power supply independently,” Grybauskaite said.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has said that he agrees with the German chancellor’s view on energy issues. “In such an important area as the energy sector, Europe can make the right decisions only by seeking more general and more integrated solutions. We paid a lot of attention to the energy challenges of high importance to Lithuania. The chancellor is well informed about the challenges that we face and the problems that we have to solve,” the head of government said after a meeting with the chancellor.

The prime minister noted that he shared the same viewpoints with the chancellor on such key issues as the development of the electricity market in the region and solutions to gas supply problems. Kubilius said that cooperation on energy issues would continue.

At the meeting with Merkel, the prime minister also encouraged German IT companies to invest in Lithuania.
Earlier in the day, the German government announced it would extend the life of its 17 nuclear reactors by 12 years on average. Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, had decided to mothball the reactors by around 2020, and opposition parties and environmentalists have vowed to fight the planned extension.