Baltic region going nuclear

RIGA - It would be more beneficial to develop renewable energy instead of investing 1 billion lats (1.4 billion euros) in Lithuania’s Visaginas nuclear power plant project, Latvia’s Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Raimonds Vejonis (Union of Greens and Farmers) said in an interview on Latvian Radio on March 17, reports news agency LETA. It is the government’s position that Latvia participates in the Visaginas project and helps Lithuanians build their nuclear power plant, said Vejonis but added that he, however, is against building nuclear plants in the Baltic region.

Lithuania has resolved to find a strategic investor for the new power plant, which it intends to build together with Latvia, Estonia and Poland.

Vejonis emphasized that after the devastating earthquake damaged the Fukushima 1 plant in Japan, the safety and necessity of nuclear power plants are being discussed again. Several countries will review the necessity of building nuclear power plants, while Germany has already stopped seven of its nuclear reactors. France, the world’s largest nuclear power consumer, is also concerned, said Vejonis.

Vejonis believes that Latvia has the potential to fill its needs with renewable energy.

In the meantime, Russia and Belarus have signed an agreement on building a nuclear power plant in Belarus near the Latvian border. The agreement was signed in Minsk on March 15 by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. It is planned that the plant will be put into operation by 2018.

Russia’s exports of nuclear technologies are one of the main sources of revenue for the country, and Moscow has signed agreements on construction of nuclear power plants in several countries the past several years. The agreement stipulates that Russia will loan Belarus 9.4 billion dollars for the construction of the nuclear plant.

Putin claimed during a meeting with Lukashenko that the new power plant would be safer than the Fukushima 1 plant in Japan.

Since 2009, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, together with the relevant authorities responsible for nuclear and radiation safety and environmental issues, has strived to ensure security of the nuclear power project planned in Belarus and that it maintain a safe distance from the capital of Lithuania, the Foreign Ministry said in a released statement. Every possible international means, international forums and bilateral contacts have been used and will be used to achieve this goal. Taking part in the process of environmental impact assessment under the Espoo Convention, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry raised questions about the unreasonable selection of the plant’s construction site and other issues of possible impact on Lithuania.

Having received and reviewed the initial document on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by Belarus, Lithuanian institutions did not find essential information about the possible impact of the project on Lithuania, or the construction site selection criteria. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry does not consider the EIA process accomplished.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has said that Lithuania has used up all political measures to prevent the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant next to the Lithuanian border, and now the only way out is to address international organizations.

Russia’s Belarusian nuclear plant project will be 50 kilometers away from Vilnius.

Seimas has expressed serious concern over the plans, as their radiation zone may extend up to the territory of Lithuania, reaching the capital city of Vilnius and other cities and have an impact on the river Neris, says the resolution adopted by the parliament last week.

The resolution requires that Belarus and Russia comply with the requirements of the Espoo convention and the International Atomic Energy Agency, answer all questions raised by Lithuania regarding the nuclear power plants projects and organize public discussions in Lithuania, as well as bilateral consultations


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