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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Energy crunch risks seen as Ignalina prepares to close

Latvia risks an energy crunch unless Baltic nations agree on alternative energy sources after the region’s only nuclear power plant shuts down next year, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis warned on April 9. Anticipating potential shortfall of electricity in 2009, Latvia would have to look for energy solutions to Russia’s gas monopoly giant Gazprom. Latvia and its Baltic neighbours, Lithuania and Estonia, have been wrestling with future of energy supplies, in anticipation of electrical shortage when the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania shuts down as the EU’s demands. The Baltics already have the electrical infrastructure with Russia in place, a remnant of the Soviet Union system. Building new links is expensive and time-consuming.
To remedy the electric isolation, the Baltic states aim to link the electric grids of Lithuania with Poland, or Latvia with Sweden - but those projects are years away from completion. “If we can’t decide how we can get connected, we risk ... to remain without electricity,”. Godmanis as saying during a parliamentary debate on energy in the Latvian capital, Riga.
Also years away is a replacement nuclear power plant for Ignalina, which the EU wants to shut down in 2009 because it is deemed unsafe.
The three countries and Poland’s push for new nuclear power station have been ridden with delays. Lithuania’s parliamentary elections in October are unlikely to force the government to make any decisions on this issue. So instead, Lithuania which spearheads the efforts to replace the existing power plant, turned to Brussels to extend Ignalina’s life, frustrating officials in Estonia and Latvia. “I have to apologise to our Lithuanian colleagues, but their conduct on that issue was destructive,” a member of the opposition, Aigars Stokenbergs said. Estonia is expected to decide later this year if it plans to construct its own nuclear power station.

(Source: New Europe)


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

To add to this - Lithuania has the highest percentage of nuclear produced electricity in the world (about 80%). It is a small country running actually on just one plant (around 4 million inhabitants). Closing Ignalina just for the sake of the RBMK reactors are not considered safe enough by the EU officials, can mean that the whole country and some of its neighbours like Latvia may remain without electricity.
RBMK reactors in fact is a very reliable construction, unless operated and taken care of properly. Reactors of this type are still used in Ukraine and Russia, and are considered safe and reliable. It's just because of Chernobyl they got such a bad name - but in fact it is a wellknown fact that Chernobyl disaster was caused by himan factor, and not the reactor model itself.
The question is whether Lithuanians have the right to decide themselves or it's the EU officials now who decide.

Anonymous said...

How many megawatts does this plant have?

I know if I was the leader of that nation I'd tell the EU to screw off, and just keep the plant running.


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Here comes the data from the website of Ignalina power plant:

The Ignalina nuclear power plant contains RBMK-1500 water-cooled graphite-moderated channel-type power reactors.

The RBMK-1500 reactor is the largest power reactor in the world. The thermal power output of one unit is 4800 MW, the electrical power capacity is 1500 MW. The Ignalina nuclear power plant, like all the stations with RBMK reactors, has a direct cycle configuration - saturated steam formed in the reactor proper by passing the light water through the reactor core is fed to the turbine at a pressure of 6,5 MPa. The light water circulates over a closed circuit.

The first stage of the nuclear power project comprises two 750 MW turbines. Each generating unit is provided with a fuel handling system and unit control room. The turbine room, waste gas purification and water conditioning rooms are common for all the units. Ignalina NPP generates about 74% of electricity consumed in Lithuania.

Alexandra Prokopenko said...

http://www.iae.lt/inpp_en.asp?lang=1&subsub=9 here you can see Ignalina in action online, and find much more information about this plant.

Joffan said...

It's a shame that the risks of electricity shortages are not used to balance the perceived risks of allowing Ignalina to continue operating until a replacement can be built.

While I understand that Chernobyl's disaster arose from a gross operating abuse of the reactor, the fact remains that the RBMK design is viewed with great suspicion. So much so that even VVER reactors get some of the same suspicion (just for being "Russian") even though they are completely different.

Alexandra Prokopenko said...

You said the right word - just for being "Russian". The only thing wrong with them is their image in the West - that's what makes them "unsafe". If you want I might find some information regarding the reliability of RBMK construction if that needs a proof in figures and drawings.
As they say, everyone believed the Earth is flat until someone looked at facts :)))

Joffan said...

Thanks Alexandra, that would be interesting.

I always asssumed that the obvious technical improvements were made to all RBMK recators post-Chernobyl... redesign of control rods, reduced override possibilities for control system, increased reactor sensors... but I don't know this for sure. Retrofitting to add/improve containment buildings would be harder I guess. It would be nice to be able to say there was more than improved procedures.