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Nuclear Is Viable Option for Baltic Energy Needs, Neverovic Says

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Building a new nuclear plant for the Baltic nations is a viable way to replace power-producing capacity the region lost when Lithuania closed two Soviet-built reactors, Energy Minister Jaroslav Neverovic said.

“Under current market conditions, a nuclear plant remains one of the most attractive solutions for our region,” Neverovic told reporters today after meeting representatives of Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

Hitachi, the strategic investor for a nuclear power plant that Lithuania is considering building in partnership with Latvia and Estonia, has proposed “obvious improvements” to a previous project that was too expensive, the minister said.

After closing the Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear plant in 2009, Lithuania imports more than half its electricity, mostly from Russia. Insufficient or inefficient local generation capacity has pushed up power prices throughout the Baltic region, Lithuanian grid operator Litgrid said today, calling for easier access to competitively priced power from the east.

Energy Independence

“When we shut Ignalina, we lost all our competitiveness in power production,” Neverovic said. “Free and independent countries” can’t depend on others for a majority of their energy needs, he said.

Heads of government from the three Baltic nations will meet next month to discuss evolving terms for the long-debated joint project, which Neverovic said now are “much more realistic and accessible to the partners” than before.

In a non-binding referendum last year, Lithuanian voters rejected the previous government’s plan to hire Japan’s Hitachi to build a 1,300-megawatt reactor in the town of Visaginas.

Rather than cancel the project, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius called on partners to study whether and how the Visaginas plant could be viable.

“I’d like to move forward,” Butkevicius told reporters today. That means working out remaining technical and financial issues to guarantee the project’s commercial viability, getting partners to sign on to the changes, and working to boost public support, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryan Bradley in Vilnius at bbradley13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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