Lithuania outlines nuclear plant shutdown plans

Lithuania’s government has approved a plan to close the first of two reactors at the Soviet-designed Ignalina nuclear power plant. The plant will be closed in 2005, while dismantling is expected to be complete in 2080, according to the proposed plan.

The three-phase plan sets out a detailed timetable for the closure of the first unit. Lithuania has not yet committed to the closure of the second unit, although the European Union has stated that failure to do so could damage Lithuania’s bid for EU membership.

The plant will be closed down on January 1, 2005, while the second phase, running until 2010, will involve preparations for the dismantling of the reactor and its facilities for long-term storage. The final stage will see the dismantling of the unit, starting in 2011, and could run until 2080.

Lithuania has been under pressure from the EU to close the two reactors, which are of the same design as the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine but have had safety upgrades since the Soviet Union break-up in 1991. International donors, mostly from within Europe, have pledged some $200m to help pay for the closure.

Putin places blame for energy crisis

Two high level Russian officials have been forced to resign after being blamed by President Vladimir Putin for a severe energy crisis in the country. Yevgeny Nazdratenko, governor of Russia’s Primorsky Krai region, and Alexander Gavrin, federal energy minister, left their posts in early February 2001 as part of a shake-up in the country’s electricity sector.

Putin also placed part of the blame for the crisis on state energy firm UES run by Antoly Chubais. UES has been calling for restructuring and liberalization of the country’s electricity sector since April 2000.

The energy crisis has severely affected the far eastern Siberian region of Primorsky, leaving over 16 000 residents without heat and electricity for several weeks.

Under its liberalization plans, UES has proposed the creation of a power pool allowing competition in generation. Regional supply companies would place bids via the wholesale market to purchase power from UES and other generators. This system would be in place by the end of 2001, and followed by a further stage of reforms that would see UES power plants transferred to independent generators.

EEA implements metering project

The Egyptian Electricity Authority (EEA) has announced that it is to implement a time of day metering project, and has awarded ABB Electricity Metering a $2.2m contract for the supply of meters, software and hand-held equipment.

EEA said that the project would enable it to optimize its network, and reduce technical and non-technical energy losses. USA-based ABB Electricity Metering will supply its AIN Alpha meters, which can address major metering issues such as reliability, accuracy and security.

The time of day metering project will be conducted in eight EEA regions. The AIN Alpha meters are highly functional and are ideal for commercial and industrial applications. State-owned EEA has a monopoly on generation and transmission.

Interconnector project opened to private sector participants

Zambia and Tanzania have opened up a proposed 330 kV interconnector project to private participation. The 670 km project from Serenje in Zambia to Mbeya in Tanzania was originally to have been developed by Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation and the Tanzania Electricity Supply Corporation.

The governments said that they had decided to open up the project to private players because of the project’s viability. They said that there was a strong market for the export of power to Tazania, Uganda and Kenya due to the difficulties these countries are experiencing with their power systems.

IMF steps up pressure

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told Bulgaria that it must speed up its energy sector reforms in order to receive further funds. The organization wants to see moves made toward a competitive and transparent energy sector before disbursing part of a three-year loan agreement.

The IMF has said that Bulgaria should reduce state regulation, phase out subsidies and liberalize prices in its energy sector. However, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov had promised not to raise electricity and heating prices before the next general election in 2001.

The IMF will assess new laws for the country’s energy sector before disbursing $70m, the final payment of a $840m, three-year loan agreement. Kostov’s pledge on energy prices to voters is proving costly due to high global oil prices.

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