Lithuania signs nuclear power plant deal with Hitachi

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Lithuania and the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi concluded today (30 March) a concession agreement for the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, paving the way for the next phase of project development of what is seen as one of the most advanced nuclear generation projects in Europe.

Following the successful conclusion of negotiations, a concession agreement relating to Visaginas was initialled at the prime minister’s office by Žygimantas Vai?i?nas, and Energy Ministry official who heads  the Concession Tender Commission, and Masaharu Hanyu, Hitachi Ltd.'s vice president, the government announced.

The Visaginas plant is to be built on the site of the Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear station that was shut down in 2009 (see background).

In 2007, Lithuania's parliament adopted a law on building a new nuclear power plant. The law also stipulated creation of a special company, Visagino atomin? elektrin?, to seek investments for the new nuclear power plant. In July 2011, Lithuania announced plans to sign a contract with Hitachi as strategic investor.

The concession agreement provides the contractual framework for the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant including the provision of: rights for the project company to design, construct and operate and, at a later stage, decommission the plant.

Over the coming weeks the agreement will be reviewed and discussed by the government, before being submitted to the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) for formal approval, probably in June.

"We welcome this important milestone in the project and wish to emphasise our appreciation of the cooperative and supportive spirit in which the project has proceeded to date," Hanyu said.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius also called the agreement a "milestone".

"The Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant presents Lithuania and the Baltic region with a once in a lifetime opportunity to diversify energy sources and enhance energy security and independence as well as continue our integration into Europe.

"The agreement with Hitachi is also a vote of confidence for what will be the largest foreign direct investment in the history of Lithuania. We are proud to have reached this milestone and to have probably the most developed new nuclear project in Europe," Kubilius said.

The prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia expressed their support for the project during a meeting at the Baltic Ministers Council on 7-8 March.

Visaginas will be equipped with an Hitachi-GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), described as the only generation III nuclear reactor with a proven operational track record around the world, with an enhanced level of safety.

Background

In 1992, at a G7 summit, it was decided that four units of Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant, along with Bohunice in Slovakia and Ignalina in Lithuania, had to be closed as they presented a high level of risk. All these nuclear units are now out of operation, the last to be shut down in December 2009 being the second unit of Ignalina.

The closing of the nuclear power stations was negotiated as part of the countries' EU accession treaties. As this early closure is a heavy financial burden for these countries, the European Union provides financial support.

Nuclear decommissioning is the final step in the lifecycle of a nuclear installation covering all activities from shutdown and removal of fissile material to environmental restoration.

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