You are here


Lithuania: poll about Visaginas construction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

According to a survey by Prime Consulting for the Lithuanian magazine Veidas, 48% of Lithuanians may vote against the construction of the planned Visaginas nuclear power plant in a referendum in October, while 19% support the construction. The poll, conducted in the country’s largest cities among 500 people on July 16-17, didn’t provide a margin of error. 

Lithuania will hold the referendum on October 14 along with the general election (see In Brief, Nuclear Monitor 753, 3 August 2012) in which the ruling center-right coalition is widely expected to be ousted from office. Prime Consulting’s poll suggest that Lithuania’s Social Democrats – who originally called for the vote on Visaginas complaining that details on the project remain too scarce after earlier supporting the plan to build the plant – are most likely to lead the next government.

Andrei Ozharovsky, a nuclear physicist and industry expert with Bellona in Russia pointed out that previous polls had indicated a 65 percent public opposition to the plant. A 50% plus one vote against the plant with a 50 percent voter turn out will be required to scuttle the plant, he said.

The figures from the polls suggest that Hitachi, the strategic investor on the Visaginas plant, may have a dark cloud cast over its plans to enter the construction phase: With the referendum coinciding with the general election, turn out is expected to be robust. But a statement released to Bellona by Hitachi in the European Union remained optimistic in an August 8, email interview with Bellona that the polls do not reflect Lithuanian public opinion. “We believe that all main political parties in Lithuania do not object to the nuclear power plant in Visaginas and that many Lithuanian people support the project. They understand that the nuclear power plant is necessary to ensure energy security of the region.”

The country’s lawmakers approved the July referendum proposal despite Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius calling for parliament to reject the initiative because it is “not necessary.” In June, Lithuanian parliament approved an agreement which provides the contractual frame-work for Visaginas. The government had planned to sign an agreement with strategic investor Hitachi to proceed with engineering and preparation work. “At this stage Hitachi wants to set up the project company as soon as possible and we expect this can be done before the referendum,” Hitachi’s statement to Bellona said. A final investment decision on whether or not to go ahead with the project is expected in 2015, NucNet reported, and the plant would be opera-tional by 2020-2022.

Visaginas is also failing to find a niche in a small region where two other nuclear power plants are planned –Belarusian NPP in the city of Ostrovets, and Baltic NPP, to be built in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between the Baltic state and mainland Russia. The site slated for the Visaginas plant is a mere 2.3 kilometers from the Belarusian border and water for the plants cooling systems is to come from Lake Drisvyaty, a water body that straddles the borders of both countries. In a rare union, both the Belarusian government and Bela-rusian environmental group are against the Visaginas plant. This is could ramp up yet more political tit for tat between Vilnius and Minsk: Lithuania has been vociferously opposed to Belarus NPP on the grounds that Minsk has submitted insufficient proof that its plant will be safe.

Source: Bellona, 8 August 2012


Hearing in Lithuanian nuclear reactor case

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Greenpeace, the Lithuanian environmental organisation Atgaja, the Latvian Green Movement and CEE Bankwatch were in court September 30, challenging the environmental impact assessment for the proposed nuclear power station near the towns of Visaginas and Ignalina in Lithuania.

The groups maintain that the assessment is fundamentally flawed because it does not evaluate the full impact of the proposed nuclear power plant, including the effects of radioactive waste, and does not compare the environmental impact of possible alternatives, such as renewable energy. 

The Lithuanian Ministry of Environment argued that the assessment was complete and that future generations would be able to cope with nuclear waste thanks to technologies that are still to be developed. A final decision on the challenge to the environmental impact assessment will take place at a hearing of the Vilnius District Administrative Court on 12 October 2009. 

Greenpeace EU nuclear expert Jan Haverkamp said: "The environmental impact assessment is deeply flawed and fails to consider issues such as the impact of nuclear waste and the cost of decommissioning. It contains so many omissions that it is impossible to determine whether building a nuclear power station can be justified on environmental grounds." 

Saulius Piksrys of the Lithuanan organisation Atgaja said: "The environmental impact assessment tells us nothing about the costs that our grandchildren might have to bear to manage the storage of nuclear waste. The bill could be much higher than investors have predicted. Without an idea of what the full costs would amount to, Lithuanian authorities are taking a huge gamble at the taxpayers expense." 

The proposed nuclear reactors would be built next to the town of Visaginas, in north-eastern Lithuania on the border with Latvia and Belarus, near the Chernobyl-era reactors of the Ignalina nuclear power station. The Ignalina nuclear power station was partly closed down in 2004. It will definitively come off-line later this year. If authorised, the new Visaginas plant would come on-line in 2018 and should have a capacity of around 3000 MW. 

Alda Ozola from the Latvian Green Movement criticised the lack of data on the possible impact resulting from a substantial nuclear accident: "How can the environmental impact assessment be complete if it doesn t even consider the impact of a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident on nearby European countries?" 

Source: Press release, Greenpeace, Bankwatch, Atgaja and Latvian Green Movement, 30 September 2009
Contact: Saulius Piksrys - CEE Bankwatch, Atgaja
Tel: +370 6879 2486