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Baltic nuclear plant hits snags

An ambitious plan hatched between Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland to collectively build a €7 billion ($10 billion) nuclear power station is unlikely to be operational by 2015, according to the Estonian government, according to the Financial Times.

The 3200 MW plant would be built at an aging nuclear power station at Ignalina, Lithuania, which is due to close in 2009 in line with European Union requirements. The partners are planning for the new plant to start operating in 2015, but industry executives say the deadline is tight. Einari Kisel, director of energy at the Estonian economy ministry, said on Tuesday: „The project will be delayed - 2015 is unrealistic. There are a lot of questions that have to be settled internally in Lithuania. These negotiations [between countries] won’t be easy either.” A senior Polish official said: „The political will to go ahead is there, but our economics ministry still has some questions.” Lithuanian officials, who - with Ignalina’s looming closure - have the strongest interest in pressing ahead quickly, say they expect the scheme to be agreed no later than this autumn.

Maris Riekstins, Latvian foreign minister, said: „The project is going forward in accordance with the plans of the companies involved. We are on schedule.” The project is expected to pass a key hurdle in the next week when the Lithuanian parliament considers plans for establishing a public-private national champion as its participant in the project. Under the proposals, the new holding company would own Lietuvos Energija, the national grid, as well as RST and VST, the country’s distribution companies. Vilniaus Prekyba, a private Lithuanian group, would give up its dominant stake in VST in return for 38.8% in the holding company. But the authorities also want to buy a 20% stake in RST held by Germany’s E.ON - and have yet to negotiate with E.ON. Also, Lithuania has yet to finalize ownership details with the other three countries. Originally, the project involved the three Baltic states building a modest 1600 MW plant, with each country owning a third. But in 2006, Vilnius invited Poland to join the project and complicated matters last year by passing a law under which Lithuania would own a 34% stake, leaving 22% each for the other three partners. (Power Engineering)