Hiroaki Nakanishi, President of Hitachi, met with Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius yesterday (16 June) to discuss the future of Lithuania’s Visaginas nuclear plant, LiTnews.lt portal reported.
In a press conference following the meeting Mr Nakanishi said that Hitachi were ready to start work as soon as approval was given and were offering to take a financial stake in the project as well.
“By being a strategic investor, we will fully commit our own efforts and resources to the long-term, stable operation and success of the project,” Mr Nakanishi said.
Lithuania is continuing down the nuclear path despite the events in Fukajima which brought back memories of the neighbouring Chernobyl disaster almost exactly 20 years prior.
As Germany reacted to the Fukajima meltdown by closing all its older reactors immediately and then all of its remaining nuclear production by 2022, Lithuania hopes to have its new nuclear facility up and running in Visaginas by 2020.
Lithuania remains committed to the nuclear option because of its heavy use of Russian resources and wants as little reliance as possible on the old Bear.
Lithuania joined the EU in 2004 and one of the conditions of entry was that the Ignalina Nuclear Powerplant – which was the same model of nuclear power plant as Chernobyl – be closed by 2010.
In the ensuing seven years a succession of governments have managed to create and dissolve LEO LT, which was supposed to oversee the construction and management of a new nuclear plant, but was widely regarded as being much too generous to the directors.
Then a list of tenders was whittled down to a single Korean company which withdrew its bid at the last minute, with many suggesting that it was Russian persuasion that prompted the decision.
While there is no lack of companies who build nuclear power plants, Lithuania requires the building company to take up to a 51% share in the €3 – 4 billion project, with Lithuania having about a 34% stake and the rest shared around the neighbouring countries. This has made the project unappealing to the EU specialist nuclear construction companies of France, and again puts Lithuania’s power supply in the hands of foreigners.
Now the government has been in direct negotiation with a number of companies, and the final two are Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric Corp, who are also said to have a strong commercial proposal on the table as well, and will meet with the government next week.
Should construction of the Visaginas Nuclear Powerplant ever go ahead we might find ourselves eyeing three competing nuclear reactors within 350 kilometres of each other as Belarus and Russia have announced that they also plan to build reactors nearby.
Belarus plans a 2.4 GW power plant, about twice the capacity of the Lithuanian reactor, about 90 kilometres from Vilnius, while Russia has also announced its intentions to build a reactor in Kaliningrad.
This situation is partly due to Polish reluctance in building an electricity power bridge that would connect Lithuania and the Baltic states to the greater European power grid, while an electricity bridge to the Scandinavian market is still a number of years away.