Nuclear Power in the Baltics

Within the EU there are options for cross-border cooperation when it comes to overcoming the economic and financial problems related to nuclear power plants. An example of such a venture in place is the Visaginas NPP project in Lithuania, initiated in 2007 by the governments of the three Baltic states and Poland (expected to be completed by 2018).

The cause for this new plan was the closing down of the Lithuanian Ignalina NPP in 2009, which had delivered 70% of the state’s electricity in 2007. Before the decommissioning, the country was a net exporter of energy, which has changed since the plant’s closure. In addition to this, electricity prices in Lithuania have increased by 33% since January 2009[1].

Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic states, numbering 3.5 million people. This makes it a small country with limited investment capability and a relatively small energy market. Yet, EU funding through the EIB has been secured and the fact that four states are participating in the project together would make the search for an investor easier to conduct. So far, the Russian company Rosatom has made an offer for the venture, but was denied by the Lithuanian government[2]. The security concerns of allowing Russian companies onto the common market of the EU are especially high when it comes to energy-related questions. In this respect, a high degree of securitization from the foreign policy perspective surrounds the NPP Visaginas project.

The cooperation between the four states on integrating their energy markets is held by the EU to be exemplary. The connections between the three Baltic States have existed since the Soviet era, and the new NPP project entails a connection of electricity grids between Lithuania and Poland, between Estonia and Finland, and between Lithuania and Sweden. The funding would come from the EU and the projects should be completed by 2015. This would allow energy trade in the North of the EU to develop to an extent where the dependency on energy resource imports from third countries is diminished and energy security is increased.

The securitization of nuclear power in the Baltics is at the politicization level. The issue is debated as a viable option for ensuring energy security and independence from resource imports from Russia. The latter is a sensitive area for these states due to their historical ties with the Federation. Therefore, developing a greater amount of autonomy in the energy sector is not only important from the energy perspective, but from the foreign policy and national security perspectives as well. Due to these higher security concerns, the issue of nuclear power is, in comparison, largely desecuritized.

For a country, or in fact a region, where nuclear power has provided people with electricity for decades, it is expected that favorable conditions exist for the development of such technology. Initially, Lithuania also exported power to Belarus, a non-EU country. With the closing down of the NPP at Ignalina, the relationship disintegrated and the situation has grown increasingly worse. When the new NPP is built, we can expect a more secure energy market in the Baltics; one less prone to external pressure. We can also expect a better relationship between the EU and Belarus to develop over time. Both these economic and geo-political aspects have to be considered when addressing the subject.

Therefore, the benefits from the building of NPP Visaginas and the relevant grid-connecting projects will be the following: 1) Trade in energy between Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Finland and Sweden will increase; 2) There will be a significant cut in GHG emissions, helping the states (especially Lithuania) to achieve their 20% target as specified by EU legislation; 3) Energy security of the Baltic region will be increased. These gains are significant especially when considering the geographical position of these states. Also, these states’ northern location and mostly flat landscape lessens the potential for developing solar and hydro power, even though investments in wind generators have increased[3]. Therefore, it is vital that nuclear power plays a role in the region.


[1] (World Nuclear Association, 2010b)

[2] (Magone, 2010)

[3] (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2009)

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3 responses to “Nuclear Power in the Baltics

  1. Pingback: Nuclear Power in the Baltics « Lubo Mitev's Blog « Politics And Funds

  2. Pingback: Nuclear Power in the Baltics « Lubo Mitev's Blog -Political Fund USA

  3. Dear Lubo,

    You mention in the above blog that EIB funding has been secured for the Visaginas NPP, however I have done some research on this and I have not been able find any information about this EIB commitment?

    Regards,

    Jesper

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