Viewing cable 06VILNIUS30

06VILNIUS302006-01-12 15:12:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF:  A. 2004 VILNIUS 1505 
      ¶B. 2004 VILNIUS 1439 
¶1. (U) SUMMARY: Lithuanian authorities are using the recent 
Russia-Ukraine gas dispute as an action-forcing event to 
build a new nuclear power plant and, possibly, to seek EU 
permission to keep the Soviet-era Ignalina plant online 
until a new facility is complete.  Expectations are low that 
Brussels will agree to release the GOL from its pre- 
accession commitment to end operations in Ignalina by 2009, 
but political momentum to keep Lithuania nuclear is growing. 
End Summary. 
Keeping Lithuanian Lights On 
¶2. (U) The GOL decommissioned the first of the two reactors 
at the country's Chernobyl-style Ignalina nuclear power 
plant (INPP) in December 2004 (ref A).  It committed to 
close the second in 2009 as a precondition to EU membership. 
Before the decommissioning of Unit I, the INPP generated 
approximately 90 percent of the electricity Lithuania 
consumed and enabled Lithuania to be a net exporter of 
electricity.  The second reactor currently generates about 
two-thirds the total output that the two units produced 
¶3. (U) President Valdas Adamkus announced January 5 that 
Lithuania must consider constructing a new nuclear power 
reactor at the INPP and to avoid increasing Lithuania's 
energy dependence on Russia.  Alluding to the recent Russia- 
Ukraine gas-price crisis, Adamkus stated that those who have 
gas and oil "weapons" can "not only blackmail an individual 
country, but also paralyze half of a continent."  Minister 
of Economy Algirdas Dauksys, echoing Adamkus, declared 
January 9 that Lithuania should make a decision on a new 
reactor without delay.  A new nuclear plant, he estimated, 
will require an initial government outlay of 350 million 
euros.  The Economy Ministry has already indicated it 
intends to invite 25 investors (including Westinghouse) to 
compete to construct a new plant once the GOL gives the 
project a nod.  Dauksys said that Estonian and Latvian 
energy companies have expressed interest in a joint project. 
The Minister expects and will recommend that the Government 
retain a minimum 34% stake in the new plant, which he 
estimates will cost USD 3.6 billion. 
Keeping Ignalina Aglow 
¶4. (U) Lithuania's leaders are scrambling to develop a plan 
to secure as best they can the country's electricity supply. 
Prime Minister Brazauskas, following a January 6 special 
meeting of representatives of Lithuania's energy sector, 
told the press that the GOL had been unable to come to terms 
with either the old or new Polish governments on 
construction of an energy bridge that would link Lithuania 
to the EU power grid.  In a radio broadcast January 10, 
Brazauskas said Lithuania should consider extending the life 
of the Ignalina reactor.  Pointing to the security and 
safety upgrades to INPP, the PM suggested that the old 
arguments for shutting down Ignalina no longer applied.  He 
alluded to the risk of dependence on Russia for oil and 
natural gas supplies and delivery, remarking, "Things may 
happen; we have to prepare for all possibilities."  The PM 
said he had "no objections" to construction of a new, modern 
nuclear facility if the Baltic States determine a need for 
additional energy resources. 
¶5. (SBU) Opinions of members of parliament diverge. 
Parliament is currently in special session with a limited 
agenda, but most parties are talking about the need to 
develop an energy strategy.  On January 10, the 
Conservatives and one independent MP introduced resolutions 
calling for the government to initiate negotiations with the 
EU on construction of a new reactor in Lithuania.  Labor and 
Social Democratic MPs told us their caucuses would take up 
the issue before the general session begins in March.  In 
principle, Labor supports Dauksys' position on the need to 
extend the life of the Unit 2 reactor, but opinions among 
SocDems vary.  Social Democrat Algirdas Paleckis told us 
that he will recommend caution in taking on the construction 
project, and worries about loss of credibility should 
Lithuania seek an extension, but he admitted that most of 
his party colleagues want to keep nuclear energy alive in 
Lithuania.  Some politicians also doubt Lithuania's ability 
to manage the construction, waste disposal, and electricity 
exporting that a new reactor would entail. 
¶6. (U) All parliamentarians with whom we talked anticipate 
difficulty in getting EU approval for either proposal.  At 
the same time, most saw recent events in Ukraine and the 
German-Russian pipeline agreement as reason enough to take 
up the discussion.  Conservative Rasa Jukneviciene said it 
would be important for all branches of government to adopt a 
unified position and action plan before petitioning 
¶7. (SBU) Lithuanian leaders have toyed with the idea of 
building a new reactor almost since the day they agreed to 
decommission their old ones.  Current events have confirmed 
their worst fears about increasing reliance on Russian 
energy.  Building a new reactor or keeping the old won't 
make Lithuanians energy-independent, but it will allow them 
to continue to generate electricity if supply of other 
sources of fuel should stop.  We think it likely that 
Lithuanians' need for energy security will overcome concerns 
about the political cost of seeking Brussels' support for 
continued nuclear power generation here.