BIG BUCKS: Estonia’s share of the Visaginas plant would be about 1 billion euros.
TALLINN - Estonia will decide whether to take part in Lithuania’s Visaginas nuclear power plant (NPP) project when it can assess the profitability of its potential contribution, based on the construction plan, said Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, reports Bloomberg. “Profitability is the key issue for us,” he told a news conference in Tallinn on May 10.
Last weekend, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was on a working visit to Tallinn where he participated in a traditional conference of Lennart Meri, first president of Estonia since its re-established independence, to discuss prospects for European energy security. At the discussion ‘Power Plays: Prospects for European Energy Security,’ the PM presented the objectives of Lithuania’s energy security. “We are seeking to end the dependence on the monopolized suppliers and to open the market, as this would translate into the optimal price for Lithuanian consumers,” Kubilius said, reports ELTA.
The prime minister pointed out to the participants of the conference that the construction of the NPP reflects regional trends as nuclear energy is increasingly developing in the Baltic Sea region. He referred to Finland as an example, where 2 nuclear power plants (4 units) are operating, and by 2014 another unit will start its operation. The government of Finland has given the green light for the construction of two new nuclear power plants, which are currently being designed. It is forecast that in 2020, 60 percent of all energy will be produced by nuclear energy in Finland.
Lithuania wants to cut its dependence on electricity imports from Russia after closing the Soviet-era Ignalina facility at the end of 2009. Neighboring Latvia and Estonia rely less on energy imports because of hydro and oil shale resources. The Lithuanian government plans to build the 1,300-megawatt reactor in Visaginas by 2020.
The plan is for Lithuania to have an initial stake of 38 percent in the plant, which may cost as much as $6.5 billion, Economy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas said on May 13. Estonia may hold 22 percent, while Latvia and Hitachi Ltd., a Japanese reactor-builder, would hold 20 percent each. The Lithuanian government is also in talks with neighboring Poland on possible participation, Sekmokas said.
“Latvia, which has constantly participated in negotiations, and as far as I know also the Polish energy company, will again analyze their intent to participate once it is possible to assess the profitability of the project,” Ansip said.
Ansip said “The decision will depend on how much our stake in the Lithuanian power plant will cost and what we will get for our stake,” Ansip said at the government’s press conference.
Estonia’s wish is to get from the Visaginas nuclear power plant 300 MWh of electricity, but its price has to be “acceptable,” added Ansip. He said that it is certainly much cheaper for Estonia to participate in a bigger project than to build a separate nuclear power plant just for itself.
The Riigikogu’s economy committee Chairman Arto Aas (Reform Party) said in an interview to the public radio that this is an important stage in building the nuclear power plant. “But we cannot say that the decisions are final and Estonia’s stake in building the Lithuanian nuclear power plant is final. It is rather just progress in Lithuania’s domestic decision-making process.”
Aas said that Estonia could still say that the economic conditions are not suitable. “We are talking about 5 billion euros and Estonia’s share would be a billion, thus we are talking about very big money,” he said, adding that the size of Estonia’s stake seems to be reasonable still.
He noted that the Riigikogu will not have to make any decisions on the issue. “This is a decision of the government. Estonia should take a pragmatic approach. This nuclear power plant will be built anyway, without our participation too. We have to look soberly whether it is useful for us or not.”