Visaginas recognised with nuclear site name

30 July 2008

New reactors in Lithuania would be built at a site called Visaginas, it was agreed today by partners in the project. A firm with the same name is being set up as a joint venture for the new plant.

In the cold: Ignalina out; Visaginas in
The policy on naming relates to a certain dissatisfaction in Lithuania with the original choice of name, which was made by Soviet planners without any local consultation. Three other factors influencing the decision are the strong support for a new nuclear plant in the nearby town of Visaginas, the county of Ignalina's strategy to position itself for tourism and the fact that the site does not lie within Ignalina county anyway.


The choice of Visaginas was agreed today by the board of the Lithuanian Electricity Organization (LEO LT), which then informed the three partners: Latvenergo, Eesti Energia and Polska Grupa Energetyczna (from Lativa, Estonia and Poland respectively).


The group has recently agreed to set up a joint venture company for the new power units. The new firm, to be called Visaginas Nuclear Plant in line with the site, would be formally established in two to three weeks. Initially LEO LT will own all the shares in the new company and it will retain 51% when it offers the other partners 16.3% each. This arrangement is to remain during the preparatory phase of the new plant project, after which it could be renegotiated.


Nuclear for nuclear


In 1974, Soviet planners decided to build the Ignalina nuclear power plant at Visaginas with two RBMK-1500 reactors. After commissioning in 1985 and 1987, the huge plant's reactors supplied a total of 2760 MWe to the region.


After the end of Soviet control, Lithuania became a powerful regional energy exporter, thanks to the inherited plant which generated 80% of the country's electricity. However, under plans to join the European Union (EU), agreements were made to shut down the Ignalina units, which do not meet EU safety standards. Lithuania joined the EU on 1 May 2004, shutting down unit 1 at the end of that year. Unit 2 is set for shutdown in 2009.


In 2006 a communiqué was signed by the prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia towards replacing the nuclear capacity and this was followed with an agreement by each country's state electricity firm. Poland became involved in 2007.


The next major step in the project is the publication of an environmental impact assessment on the possibility of new reactors, due to be released on 27 August. A separate study completed on 30 April identified different possible locations and plant layouts which are now under evaluation. Studies are also underway to assess the logistics of transporting the large components of modern reactors, which are quite different from those in the existing RBMK Ignalina units.

If successful, the project would see a new nuclear power plant with two reactors completed in the 2015-8 timeframe. It would generate up to 3400 MWe