Ignalina nuclear power plant, 160 km north of Vilnius, Lithuania.
© Jan Haverkamp. Click image for a larger view.
As the year changes, it’s often customary to look back and think about those who are no longer with us. Here we bid farewell to Lithuania’s Ignalina 2 nuclear reactor, which was shut down on December 31.
The reactor was closed as part of the terms of Lithuania joining the European Union. Its sister reactor was closed in December 2004. The reactors were of a similar design to that at Chernobyl and so were closed due to safety concerns.
Questions are now being asked. Won’t power prices have to rise in Lithuania? Won’t the country leave itself open to relying on Russia for its power? In fact, the two Lithuanian reactors were reliant on Russian nuclear fuel. If anything the closure of the reactors means Lithuania is now able to diversify its energy sources.
Lithuania knew it had to close its Soviet-era nuclear reactors in 1999 when its application to join the EU was accepted. The closure is depicted as unpopular but a referendum held in 2008 on whether to close Ignalina 2 or not could not even attract the 50% of voter turnout required to allow it to pass.
That said, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity has shown that ‘after closure of INPP by the end of 2009, Lithuania will be able to cover peak load during the winter period. Lithuania does not expect any critical situation during the winter period.’.
(Which is more than can be said for France which is being forced to import electricity while several of its nuclear reactors are off during the winter months. Nuclear power hasn’t stopped the lights going out there.)
Lithuania has had eleven years to consider contingencies for any energy gap. The country has much potential for several renewable energy alternatives including solar, wind, geothermal and hyro power. It’s time for it to embrace a new revolution.
Since 1999? Lithuania already knew since 1992 that it had to close down the reactors! The G7 meeting Muenich already came to that conclusion. The EU implemented that decision by taking up the issue in the accession negotiations...
Lithuania has more than sufficient capacity to meet its demand. On top of that it imports cheaper electricity from Russia.
The closed power plant of course also needs electricity. It gets it, surprisingly, from neighbour Latvia's Latvenergo, which means that a large fraction is renewable hydro energy!
Although Lithuania is developing slowly wind energy (but there are problems with grid access, among others) and biomass, it still has a huge capacity there. The Lithuanian NGO Atgaja developed a 100% renewable scenario. Instead of gambling on a new nuclear power station, it is time Lithuania starts following these kind of initiatives.
Ignalina itself is fed-up with the image of nukes. It demanded the initiative for a new NPP is called Visaginas, after the town that was build for workers in the Ignalina NPP. Ignalina itself would rather develop to a tourist centre - and right they are! It's a beautiful beautiful area!
5 January, 2010 at 19:45
"On top of that it imports cheaper electricity from Russia."
I am from Lithuanian and I just wanted to say, that our electricity became more expencive than was. It is too simple and too ignorant to say that Russian gives us cheaper electricity.
26 January, 2010 at 10:53
Before, Lithuanians paid low prices for their energy because there was no relation between cost and price - the price was set on other criteria. Then Lithuania became independent and got the Ignalina nuclear power station in own hands - building costs were already covered. The only costs were the operation and management costs and in the late 1990s an amount for waste and decommissioning. That added up to very low electricity prices that over-all did not reflect the true costs because they did not include the construction costs of Ignalina.
Now Ignalina is closed, prices are determined more by cost (though demand also is an important factor). Instead of generating its own electricity with the idle installed capacity available, it is cheaper for the Lithuanian utility LEO LT to have long-term contracts for electricity with Russia (and Latvia, which delivers the electricity necessary for the shut-down Ignalina power plant). Cheaper means cheaper in comparison with the costs of generating the electricity in Lithuania at the moment.
On the longer term, the cheapest - or maybe better, least costly option will be to improve Lithuania's energy efficiency and deliver the rest with renewable sources like biomass, wind and hydro.
The Lithuanian NGO Atgaja produced a scenario that shows how Lithuania can develop to 100% renewables in 2050: http://www.inforse.org/europe/VisionLT.htm
4 February, 2010 at 14:15
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