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Poland, Lithuanian premiers: new reactor to boost energy security

The prime ministers of European Union neighbors Poland and Lithuania agreed Friday that a new reactor at Lithuania's existing Ignalina nuclear power facility would boost energy security in the EU's Baltic region.

The new Ignalina facility, slated to open in 2015, would 'greatly strengthen' bilateral relations and "have a significant influence on energy security," Polish Premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski said following Friday talks with his Lithuanian counterpart Gediminas Kirkilas. The Lithuanian leader said parliament was expected to complete planning work on the project by the end of June. He also expressed Lithuania's interest in hooking up to Poland's natural gas pipeline network. The existing Soviet-built Ignalina reactor currently serves some 70% of Lithuania's energy needs, but is slated to be closed later this decade under an agreement with the European Union.

Baltic states Estonia and Latvia were the first to join Lithuania in the project, estimated to cost €5-6 billion ($7-8 billion). Poland has also joined and plans to build a so-called 'energy bridge' hooking up its electrical power grid with Lithuania and its Baltic partners. The leaders met at the headquarters of Poland's leading Orlen fuel's refiner in Plock, central Poland. Also the leading central European fuels refiner and distributor, Orlen recently purchased Lithuania's Maziekiu Nafta refinery.

Kaczynski also criticized as 'poor policy' a recent comment by Russia's energy minister casting in doubt the resumption of oil deliveries to the Maziekiu refinery. Fuel lines from Russia to the Maziekiu Nafta refinery were cut last July after an apparent rupture in Russia's Soviet-era Druzhba-1 (Friendship) pipeline. The development came just shortly after Lithuania selected Poland's Orlen instead of a Russian company for the sale of the refinery. Poland is currently seeking contracts for alternative fuel supplies to ease reliance on Russian crude oil. (