Skip to main content

The Road to Visaginas

lithuania_3081_600x450Consider this: when Lithuania closed its nuclear plant in 2009, it lost access to a whopping 70 percent of its total electricity generation – enough to allow it to be a net exporter of electricity, especially to its Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia. The reason one nuclear plant could so dominate the energy conversation is that Lithuania has an exceptionally small population – 3.5 million people.

And though the three Baltic states point their destinies westward, so to speak, there are enduring – or at least well-understood - ties to Russia. Consequently, Russian natural gas now fills in for Lithuania’s lost nuclear energy – reversing the previous arrangement and making the country a net energy importer - a situation the country is very eager to change.

But how to do that?

"I am happy a very important historic decision allowing the further development of nuclear energy in Lithuania ... has been made," {Prime Minister Andrius] Kubilius told reporters at parliament, which backed the concession deal with 74 out of the 141 seats in the house.

That’s how. Concession doesn’t mean conceding, it means that the parliament granted Hitachi the nuclear energy concession.

There are storm clouds:

But the main opposition Social Democrat Party, which leads opinion polls ahead of the election, boycotted the vote in protest at the cost of the project, estimated by the Finance Ministry at up to 6.8 billion euros ($8.64 billion).

Lithuania wants Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, to share the cost together with Hitachi as a strategic investor.

That’s a lot of cash, especially for such a tiny country, but the benefits are exceptionally many. Aside from the obvious ones we mention here all the time, Lithuania really wants to set its own energy destiny. Yet – it’s a lot of cash.

PM Kubilius makes the case:

“This is a very wise and prudent decision. I am happy that the Seimas [parliament] has said yes to a further development of nuclear energy in Lithuania, to the development of the VNPP [the proposed site is called Visaginas] and thus to a possibility of having cheaper electricity in a decade or so, at the same time attracting substantial investments and creating many new jobs in the period of construction.”

That’s the argument that could be made almost anywhere about a big project – but it happens to be true.

PS: There is some movement on the renewable energy front, too, though pretty tiny so far:

The target capacity for 2010 is 200 MW from wind farms, 33 MW from biomass plants, and 132 MW from hydro power plants.

See here for more.

Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…