Commission reports on Lithuania's progress towards closure of Ignalina nuclear power plant: answer to parliamentary question

June 14, 2002

Strasbourg, 13 June 2002

Verbatim report of proceedings, 13 June 2002 (Part A)

Anfrage Nr. 19 von Marialiese Flemming (H-0360/02)
Betrifft: Hochrisikoreaktoren vom Typ Tschernobyl

Over the last months, the public debate in Lithuania on the early closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (of an RBMK type similar to the reactors at the Chernobyl NPP, but with improved safety features) has been particularly intense. The Commission is encouraged that this debate will lead to Lithuania taking its decision in the near future. The Ignalina NPP is the only nuclear power plant with power reactors of the RBMK type in candidate countries. The Union expects Unit 2 to close by 2009, at the latest. On 14 May 2002, the Lithuanian Parliament passed a resolution, giving the Government a mandate to negotiate the terms for the closure of Unit 2 with the Member States of the Union. A clear commitment of Lithuania to close down Unit 2 by 2009 at the latest will be needed for the closure of the chapter Energy in the accession negotiations.

Within the framework of its regular dialogue with Lithuania, the Commission has constantly highlighted the expectation of the Union with regard to the closure date. Since 1999, the Commission has enhanced this dialogue through a joint Community-Lithuanian Working Group on Energy. Members of the Commission have persistently pursued the said closure date during their bilateral meetings with Lithuanian interlocutors.

Also since 1999, the Commission has committed Community funding from the PHARE financial instrument to support Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia in their decommissioning efforts regarding the respective power reactors subject to early closure. With regard to Lithuania, in view of the burden of decommissioning that is not commensurate with the size and economic strength of the country, and acknowledging that decommissioning will last for decades the Commission furthermore proposed, earlier in 2002, to the Member States to continue its assistance as an act of Union solidarity with Lithuania also after accession.

In its information note of October 2001 to the Gent European Council meeting on a mid-term review of the implementation of the enlargement strategy, the Commission stated that the closure commitments regarding Ignalina, Bohunice V1 and certain units of Kozloduy must be respected and therefore duly included in the Accession Treaties.

With regard to Bulgaria, according to an Understanding reached in 1999, the Commission expects Bulgaria's decision on the closure dates of Units 3 and 4 at the Kozloduy NPP by the end of this year, and that the firm date for final closure of units 3 and 4 will be no later than 2006. The Commission is already closely monitoring the preparation for final shut down of Units 1 and 2 by the end of this year, following the schedule that Bulgaria agreed with the Commission.

The Commission has no reason to assume that Lithuania, Slovakia or Bulgaria will not close the reactor units in time, once all closure dates will have been decided. The Commission is also engaged, together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as the manager of the three International Decommissioning Support Funds through which the bulk of Community-funded support to decommissioning measures in the three respective candidate countries is delivered, in pursuing that the necessary decommissioning projects are designed and implemented without undue delay. The Commission both chairs the Assemblies of Contributors to these three Funds as well as represents the Community as the largest single Contributor.

Thus, the Commission is continually engaged in a variety of actions to ensure the timely closure of certain reactor types that the Honourable Member has summarised as high-risk.

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