2012.07.17 16:02

Referendum on plans for a new nuclear power plant

2012.07.17 16:02

Lithuanian Parliament gave its vote for calling a referendum on plans for a new Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, which is planned to replace a Soviet-era facility.

Lithuanian Parliament gave its vote for calling a referendum on plans for a new Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, which is planned to replace a Soviet-era facility.

Proposal to hold a referendum was raised by the Seimas Opposition, which deeply opposes nuclear plans. Meanwhile, governing Conservatives accuses the Opposition of simply seeking pre-election gains.

Referendum will be hold simultaneously with the Lithuanian General Election, on October 14. However, the results of this advisory referendum will not be binding for the new Government. On the other hand, it may add further uncertainty to the already-sluggish nuclear project.

Visaginas NPP lacks a stronger support from the Opposition parties that presently are leading the election polls, and such attitude causes contraposition in the society. One part is in favor and highlights the opportunity to ensure energetic independence from Russia, which is the main electricity supplier at the moment; the other part opposes the project, claiming it will exacerbate environmental issues.

A similar referendum on extending the old plant’s function was held alongside the last General Elections in 2008, but while 89 percent voted in favor, turnout was only 48 percent, rendering it invalid.

Last month, Lithuanian Parliament backed a deal with Japan's Hitachi on constructing a new plant in Visaginas, though final investment decisions are not expected until 2015.

The plan foresees a 20% stake in the project for Hitachi, 38 % - for Lithuania, with the rest of Baltic States - Estonia and Latvia - getting 22% and 20% respectively.

At the end of 2009, Lithuania closed its only nuclear power located in Ignalina, as it was one of the conditions for the country to join the European Union. As the result, closing down the plant has left Lithuania reliant on energy supplies from Russia.

Video material that was submitted to European Broadcasting Union:


Various shots of the parliament

Supporters of the referendum

Soundbite (Lithuanian), representative of oppositional Social Democratic party, Birutė Vėsaitė:

Visaginas nuclear power plant will be built on Lithuanian land, with increased danger, therefore we must ask the opinion of the Lithuanian people.

Soundbite (Lithuanian), Conservative prime minister, Andrius Kubilius:

I think this initiative is an initiative for elections and politicking. Parties and members of parliaments are a little bit confused before the elections. As a party chairman I see this initiative as an aim to make energetic independence the main topic of the elections. I can say that this course looks quite attractive to me.

 Soundbite (Lithuanian), a political scientist, Ramūnas Vilpišauskas:

Any investor will raise a natural question, how much can you trust in a range of legislation and the legal environment of Lithuania. How much can you trust in parliament’s decisions, because after decisions like these, I think doubts will be raised about investments in Lithuania.

Various shots of closed Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant

Various shots of closure works