Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant: Commission answers parliamentary question

May 20, 2002

Strasbourg, 17 May 2002

Verbatim proceedings of Parliament, 16 May 2002, Part 1.

Question no 40 by Gary Titley (H-03 3/02)
Subject: Power plant in Ignalina
In its report on the financial perspective for enlargement, the Commission indicated that support for the closure of the Ignalina power station would be required for decades to come. On the other hand, the Council is not prepared to make any commitment beyond the end of the current financial framework in 2006. The Lithuanians are reluctant to commit themselves to closing the second reactor without a clear indication of future support.
How does the Commission propose to resolve these contradictory positions so that the energy chapter can be closed in time for possible Lithuanian accession in 2004?

Answer
The Union's position on the closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant should first be recalled. Concerning the closure of the plant, the Union requires a clear and binding confirmation of Lithuania's commitment regarding the final closure of Unit 1 before 2005 and a clear and binding commitment by Lithuania to close Unit 2 by 2009 at the latest.

Regarding external financial assistance for the closure and decommissioning, the Commission would like to recall the substantial Union assistance already provided, notably through Phare. Furthermore, the Union has expressed its readiness to explore with Lithuania further financial support. Moreover, the Commission has been very much encouraged by the Member States, which generally have welcomed the proposals in this regard presented in the Commission's paper on the Common Financial Framework in January 2002. The Commission indeed considers that the decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is an extraordinary burden for Lithuania in view of the plant's economic importance relative to the country's size and that this situation renders necessary additional support, which - as indicated by the Honourable Member - should continue for the next decades.

In general one should however notably underline that nuclear reactors of the RBMK type, including the two reactors of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), suffer from fundamental design failures, so that - despite any short-term safety improvements - they cannot realistically be upgraded to an internationally acceptable high safety level. The Commission recalls that the decision to build up such an NPP in Lithuania was made under particular historical circumstances.

The Commission is furthermore encouraged by the ongoing work in Lithuania to prepare the necessary decisions. The highest political level, including the President, the Government and the Parliament, are all engaged in this very difficult but important process.

Lithuania is fully aware that the accession negotiations are based on the present acquis including the limits set by the current financial perspectives.

On the basis of the above, the Commission is confident that all parties involved will find in time an adequate and well-balanced solution, based on Community Solidarity and mutual trust. The fact that the European Parliament as budgetary authority continues to attach high importance to this matter only increases confidence in this regard.

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