LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT ASKING EU TO PROLONG IGNALINSK ATOMIC POWER PLANT OPERATION

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VILNIUS, October 21 (RIA Novosti's Vladimir Vodo) - The Lithuanian government is going to apply to the EU's leadership to prolong the operation time of the 1st power unit of the Ignalinsk atomic power plant at least for half year, the press service of the Lithuanian government reported following a Thursday session held by Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas.

Reportedly, Brazauskas intends to invite EU experts to assure them that pre-term shutdown of the power unit might threaten the stability and security of the whole region's energy system. Indeed, energy experts present at the session stressed the measure could bring about an "energy crisis".

With the only reactor down, if energy supply via Smolensk power lines is cut off somehow in winter, the whole adjacent region may suffer from lack of electricity, and serious problems may face Russia's Kaliningrad region and Latvia in addition to Lithuania, the experts believe.

Earlier the CEOs of the Belarus Belenergo concern, RAO UES (Russia), Eesti Energia (Estonia) and Latvenergo (Latvia) sent a joint request to the Lithuanian Head of Government that the work of the 1st power unit of the Ignalinsk power plant should continue until a new 450 megawatt thermal power plant is put into operation. Otherwise, the shutdown of the Ignalinsk power plant can destabilize the work of the neighbouring states' energy systems, the heads of the companies say.

The construction of the thermal power plant in Kaliningrad is to be over in November 2005, while Lithuania's obligations before the EU suppose the closure of the 1st power unit on December 31st 2004.

The energy companies of Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are signatory to an agreement on parallel operation of energy systems.

The Ignalinsk power plant produces up to 80% of Lithuanian electro-energy, about 50% of which is exported to the Kaliningrad region and Belarus.

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