"That Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad is surprising, controversial and a provocation. Geographically it will be located in Europe but not be covered by the EU's laws," says a highly placed source at the Foreign Ministry.
When the plans to build a facility in Kaliningrad were first made public in April they were met by protests. Countries in the region warned against safety and environmental problems. On Monday [ 25 August] that did not prevent Sergey Kiriyenko, head of the Russian nuclear energy organ Rosatom, from signing [the document] which gives the enclave two pressurized water reactors with a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts.
.Lars Gunnar Larsson, an expert on nuclear power plants in Sweden and Russia and formerly employed at the Swedish Nuclear Energy Inspectorate, does not think there is any reason for concern.
"I'm not at all worried. Russia is not the same as the Soviet Union, where there was no safety thinking. In Russia there is a very high level of expertise," he says.
Construction will begin at the end of next year, according to Rosatom. The nuclear power plant will be located in the city of Neman on the highly polluted Nemunas river, which forms the border with Lithuania, among others. Foreign investors are welcome to buy shares up to 49 per cent.
According to the Lithuanian newspaper Respublika there are plans to lay underwater cables from Kaliningrad to Sweden and Poland in order to facilitate the sale of power to those countries. After Lithuania decided to close the country's Ignalina nuclear power plant, the nation has entertained the idea of a new plant jointly with Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. That is why the Russian construction plans were received with surprise and indignation. With a nuclear power plant so close, there is believed to be great risk that the new plant at Ignalina would become less profitable or even superfluous.
The Radiation Protection Authority in Sweden takes no positions on Russia's announced construction plans.
"We have no supervision over nuclear power plants abroad and therefore don't want to comment on the building of such plants abroad," says Mattias Skold, press spokesman for the authority.
Before World War II Kaliningrad was German and was called Konigsberg. During the war large parts of the region were devastated. After that it was occupied by the Soviet Union and served the superpower as a military base. Post-Soviet Kaliningrad is part of the Russian Federation and is marked by extreme social and economic poverty.