In response to the recent information on the implementation process of the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant (NPP) project, Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) once again draws attention to the fact that Lithuania sought and will continue to seek that the environmental impact assessment for the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant is carried out in compliance with the provisions of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention), urm.lt reports.
The Lithuanian MFA welcomes Russia’s efforts to comply with the provisions of the Convention and expects that the country will consistently and accurately conduct all the stages of cooperation and negotiations with affected countries, as stipulated in the Convention: in the first stage, affected countries pose questions and receive substantive answers; then public hearings are organized to inform the public in affected countries in detail about the project; and, in the third stage, expert consultations are held.
Lithuania and Russia are in the first stage of the environmental impact assessment for the Kaliningrad NPP in compliance with the provisions of the Espoo Convention. In order to be able to move on to the second stage and organize public hearings in Lithuania, Russia has to provide answers to the following essential questions about the process of project implementation:
1. why particularly this construction site, located 11 km from the Lithuanian border, was selected for the Kaliningrad NPP (other sites were not considered, unknown selection criteria),
2. why no seismic survey of the construction site was carried out (a document provided by Russia does not include any substantial data, it is based on the tectonic-fracture map that dates back to 1983. The environmental impact assessment was based on the seismic hazard map that dates back to 1999. However, an instrumentally recorded earthquake of 2004 had greater intensity level than indicated in this map; there is no information whether modern three-dimensional seismic surveys on the Kaliningrad NPP construction site were carried out),
3. how the reactor will be cooled down (water from the River Nemunas, which is the largest Lithuanian river, is expected to be used to cool down the reactor of the Kaliningrad NPP; there is 10-12 km distance between the NPP and the proposed cooling source; there is a problematic height difference of about 15 meters between the River Nemunas and the site of the Kaliningrad NPP; the method and amount of emergency water storage were not examined; it is not estimated whether the amount of stored water will be sufficient in case of an emergency),
4. why no comprehensive risk and safety assessments (‘stress tests’) are carried out in the Kaliningrad NPP in accordance with the agreement between the EU member states and other EU neighbouring countries (although Russia undertook a commitment to carry out these ‘stress tests’ for the existing and planned nuclear power facilities on 23 June 2011, the country has so far not done this),
5. why no information has been provided regarding the environmental impact on the River Nemunas and its ecosystem, the surrounding territories and human population of the exploitation of the NPP under regular conditions or in case of a major accident.
6. why no information has been provided on the emergency preparedness plans.
These are just some of Lithuania’s questions to Russia, which have not been answered.
In the first stage of consideration of the environmental impact assessment for the Kaliningrad NPP over the past three years, Lithuania has even fourteen times officially submitted these and other questions to Russia, but received no answers to essential questions.
Last time Lithuania addressed Russia on 5 January 2012, but received no official response. Furthermore, over the past three years, the Kaliningrad NPP issue has been raised at every bilateral meeting and session of the Lithuanian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission, but still there was no response. In March 2012, the Russian State Corporation ROSATOM informally submitted to Lithuania documents in which Lithuanian experts also found no requested information. Until now answers to the questions were received neither at bilateral level, nor through international organizations (the Implementation Committee of the UN Espoo Convention, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), etc).
It is completely understandable that Lithuania is more concerned about the Kaliningrad NPP project than other countries, because in the event of an emergency it will be potentially affected most of all. This object is constructed namely at the Lithuanian border, and namely the water of the largest Lithuanian River Nemunas will be used to cool down the reactor. Therefore, Lithuania aims to have a comprehensive impact assessment carried out, so it would dispel all doubts of the citizens of Lithuania regarding this project.
Lithuania has always spoken up for transparency, openness and the implementation of the highest nuclear safety standards. Therefore, Lithuania is concerned about the hasty development of the Kaliningrad NPP project and another ROSATOM’s project – the Astravets NPP in Belarus – and about the statements that the construction of these nuclear power plants will be the cheapest ever. Lithuanian Foreign Ministry believes that this can only be done at the expense of the safety of these objects.
Lithuania is more than any other country interested in the transparency and safety of these projects, and hopes for goodwill cooperation with Russia. International requirements for nuclear safety, environmental protection and radiation safety are universal and universally binding, so once again we invite Russia to take the advantage of the international nuclear safety guidelines and the IAEA missions, and to carry out ‘stress tests’ on the nuclear power plants.
Although ROSATOM says that the Kaliningrad NPP project is developed safely and responsibly, no IAEA mission has been invited to visit the nuclear power plant site that was selected based on vague criteria in order to assess the suitability of this construction site. This is the first thing that should be done in the modern world when developing a nuclear power plant project, rather than starting a cheap and hasty construction.
Nuclear accident knows no boundaries and can affect the entire Baltic Sea region. Thus, our common interest must be to ensure the safety of these nuclear power plants during the reactors’ operating cycle: safe nuclear technology can only be on a safe site; the nuclear power plant has to be built safely, exploited safely and safely closed.
Lithuania will seek to provide transparent and detailed information to the public about cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear safety, and calls on Russia not shy away from publicity, but to contribute to the implementation of this objective.
Lithuania sees real prospects for strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia, especially benefiting from the unique situation of the Kaliningrad region and its proximity to the common EU energy market.