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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lithuanian Electoral Commission: referendum on delaying Ignalina plant shutdown failed

According to preliminary data from the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission, the Sunday nonbinding referendum on delaying the shutdown of the Ignalina nuclear power plant failed as the referendum turnout was not high enough for the referendum results to be valid.

More than a half of Lithuania's 2.7 million voters had to take part in the referendum to validate the referendum results, reports ELTA.

According to data compiled so far, 48% of Lithuanian voters took part in the referendum.

An overwhelming majority of those who did vote, about 92%, cast their votes for delaying the Ignalina nuclear power plant shutdown.

Shutdown of the soviet-era power plant by end-2009 was one of the preconditions for Lithuania's accession to the European Union.

The referendum had no binding legal value, but supporters said the goal was to try to strengthen Vilnius' hand as it scrambles to convince its 26 fellow EU members to let it push back the deadline to 2012.

EU officials have said Vilnius was "dreaming" and that the bloc was "ready to help Lithuania, but not to breach the treaty."

Ignalina provides 70% of electricity needs in Lithuania. Lithuanian authorities and analysts have said that power shortages and energy price hikes expected to follow the shutdown could inflict deep economic damage on the country at a time when its long economic boom is tailing off.

In another attempt to step up the pressure, Economy Minister Vytas Navickas warned at an EU meeting last week that Vilnius could reject EU caps on carbon dioxide emissions if the bloc failed to approve a delay. Lithuania argues that if it has to rely on power generated by fossil fuels, it will not be in a position to respect the caps set by Brussels on carbon dioxide.

Lithuania is in talks with fellow EU members and neighbors Latvia, Estonia and Poland on building a new plant at the Ignalina site, anticipated to come on stream by 2015, although experts suggest 2017-2020 is more realistic.

(Source: Baltic Course)

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