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Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to security cooperation with allies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) through both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and direct bilateral mechanisms. NATO remains an indispensable force for regional stability, providing member states with essential elements of physical and political security. Strengthening the alliance should remain a top U.S. priority.
The CEEC advocated for the successful enlargement of NATO from the Baltic to the Black Seas and strongly urges U.S. Congress to support the NATO aspirations of Georgia and other qualified countries seeking membership. Georgian citizens have expressed their support for Georgia’s entry into NATO several times, and Georgia is a substantial contributor of troops to NATO and to other international coalitions in Asia and the Middle East. The CEEC supports the NATO Enhancement Act, S. 2177, introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar, which would substantially strengthen NATO and NATO partnerships.
On February 8, 2012, NATO announced that it was extending its air policing operation over the Baltic countries until at least 2018. That program, first launched in 2004, is an excellent example of cooperative “smart defense.” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the mission “continues to demonstrate the Alliance’s commitment to collective defense and solidarity for all its members,” and the CEEC welcomes such measures.
The CEEC also strongly urges the U.S. to pursue its program for missile defense in Europe despite Russian objections. The protection is needed given Iran’s forward movement in developing ballistic missiles.
The CEEC supports the efforts of the United States, bilaterally and through NATO, to protect cyber infrastructure from disruption and aggression. It further urges the U.S, jointly with its NATO allies, to establish through cooperation, education, international best practices and collective responses, effective counter-measures against cyber attacks, cyber crime and cyber espionage. Acts of cyber aggression against NATO members also represent an ongoing security challenge to the United States.
- Support S. 2177, the NATO Enhancement Act, introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar to encourage further enlargement of NATO and to deepen U.S. strategic partnerships with NATO allies.
DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
The CEEC staunchly supports democracy and the indispensable elements of the rule of law, human rights, minority rights, and historical accuracy, all of which are especially important in the CEE region, considering its history, previous Soviet domination, and ethnic, national and religious diversity. While democracies have emerged and developed in CEE since the collapse of communism, issues remain to be resolved. An autocratic regime still reigns in Belarus. Vestiges of intolerance and discrimination against national minorities linger even within some countries that have joined Western institutions. At the same time, accusations of such discrimination have been levied by Russia against other CEE countries as a propaganda tool to discredit them. Denial of crimes against humanity, including the Armenian Genocide, undermines the pillars of democracy.
Russian revisionist history denies or excuses Stalin-era atrocities and actions, such as the Holodomor in Ukraine, and the Soviet occupation and deportation of hundreds of thousands of CEE nationals. Russia’s continual dissemination of propaganda that distorts and falsifies both current events and history is a powerful tool used to discredit and attack perceived adversaries. Democracy in Russia is threatened, as demonstrated by rampant fraud and corruption in its recent parliamentary and presidential elections. An issue regularly on the U.S. agenda vis-à-vis Russia is the possible repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The CEEC is concerned that, if this were to occur, it not be interpreted as an approval of Russia’s domestic and foreign policies. We therefore urge that any Congressional action be accompanied by comparable measures so that violations of human/minority rights and fundamental freedoms, aggressive policies, and undemocratic practices, not go unchecked.
The Russian government also uses many avenues to influence and attempt to dominate the countries of the CEE region. These have included both political and military actions, economic manipulation (e.g., blocking energy transit, trade barriers, and cyber attacks), accusations of alleged maltreatment and discrimination against people of Russian descent living in CEE countries, and delay in the removal of Russian military forces from the region. In 2008, the Russian military forcibly annexed the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia of the Republic of Georgia, and the situation today remains unchanged.
U.S. foreign policy countering Russia’s attempts to reestablish a “sphere of influence” in the region should emphasize the promotion of democratic principles and institutions within the Russian Federation. The CEEC urges that U.S. foreign policy also include the aim of improving Russia’s relations with its neighbor nations, and that such policy be pursued in a forceful and proactive manner.
- Cosponsor S. 1039, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and H.R. 4405, introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. FrankWolf (R-VA). Ensure that any action taken regarding the Jackson-Vanik Amendment addresses human rights and democracy within Russia.
- Cosponsor H.Res. 304, a human rights bill affirming the Armenian Genocide, introduced by Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and S. Res. 399, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
The pilot edition of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allowed six EU countries from CEE (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) to join the VWP in 2008, expired in June 2009, leading to an automatic reinstatement of the standard eligibility rules. These rules include requiring the aspiring country to have less than a 3 percent visa refusal rate in order to be eligible for participation in the Program (as opposed to 10 percent that was set in the Pilot). These rules have had the unfortunate effect for millions of CEE Americans, mostly of Polish descent, that their relatives still cannot travel freely to the U.S., regardless of years of proven, dependable friendship and loyalty to America.
The CEEC believes that it is in the best interest of the U.S. to have the Visa Waiver Program expanded, especially to countries that have demonstrated a capacity and willingness to cooperate with the U.S. in achieving counter-terrorism goals. The CEEC also supports the establishment of a new P visa category to cover groups and individuals coming to the U.S. for cultural purposes at the invitation of a U.S.-based group with ethnic ties to the invitee’s country. This new category includes those coming to present and/or teach ethnic or folk culture, music, theater, dance, or other artistic endeavors of the country of origin.
- Cosponsor H.R. 3855/S. 2046, the VisaWaiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act – currently under consideration by the Committees on the Judiciary (in the House and Senate) – that would allow for expansion of the VWP. The bill is a direct result of close cooperation between congressional offices and Departments of State and Homeland Security.
- Cosponsor S.2233, Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act (JOLT) sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and corresponding H.R.3341, Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act sponsored by Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Both bills aim to increase travel to the United State while modernizing the VisaWaiver Program incorporating provisions of H.R. 3855/S. 2046.
Energy affects the CEE region’s political and economic viability, as well as its social stability. Russia is the current primary and in many cases sole source of gas and oil supplies, which it manipulates to attain its political and economic objectives. Evidence of such manipulation includes abrupt cut-offs of gas and oil to CEE countries, price escalations of natural gas to selected EU countries, redirection of gas transit routes through Nordstream, and reductions of gas supplies to Europe during the 2012 severe cold spell. U.S. policy towards CEE should promote energy security and facilitate economic collaboration among countries in the region. The CEEC urges support for a NATO Center of Excellence for Energy Security (ENSEC COE) in Lithuania, which could help implement the NATO Strategic Concept of 2010’s endorsement of developing “the capacity to contribute to energy security.” In addition, support energy diversification and independence in the region, e.g., development of safe shale gas technology, LNG infrastructure, alternative energy sources, as well as a gas corridor from the Caspian region to the CEE.
Additionally, Russian resources are being used to build two large nuclear power plants in Belarus and Kaliningrad, potentially exposing parts of the CEE region to serious nuclear devastation in case of an accident. At a minimum, the U.S. should ensure that compliance with internationally established standards occurs and encourage the EU to monitor and influence these developments.
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO AND PROMOTION OF REGIONAL DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
While many countries within CEE have “graduated” from U.S. assistance programs as provided for under the SEED and FREEDOM Support Acts, U.S. funding should remain a priority for these countries, and at a minimum should be maintained at current levels. Security Assistance Programs levels to the region, such as Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET), should also be maintained. Exchange programs, a part of public diplomacy, are an acknowledged and successful means of promoting international understanding, good will, and training to citizens of the United States and participating countries.
- Join the Congressional Caucus on Central and East Europe, co-chaired by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL).
- Maintain FMF and IMET funding levels for CEE countries.
- Support robust funding for the countries of Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, and continued assistance funding to support democracy in Belarus.
- Maintain funding for educational and cultural exchange programs.
BLACK RIBBON DAY
The CEEC supports the establishment of a national August 23 Black Ribbon Day, to honor and commemorate those who lost their lives, were tortured, deported, lost their property or otherwise suffered under the ravages of the Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes. These repressions touched many Americans of CEE extraction, being directly affected themselves, or having relatives and friends who suffered. The infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed on August 23, 1939, dividing Europe between the Soviet and Nazi regimes. In 2009, August 23 was designated Black Ribbon Day in Canada.
- Support designating August 23 as Black Ribbon Day to commemorate the victims of Soviet.
- Communist and Nazi regimes and the date of the signing of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
1612 K Street, NW, Suite 410, Washington, D.C. 20006 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.CEECoalition.us
CENTRAL AND EAST EUROPEAN COALITION
American Hungarian Federation
American Latvian Association in the U.S.
Armenian Assembly of America
Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis
Congress of Romanian Americans
Washington Chapter Czechoslovak National
Council of America
Estonian American National Council
Georgian Association in the USA
Hungarian American Coalition
Joint Baltic American National Committee
Lithuanian American Council
Lithuanian American Community
National Federation of American Hungarians
Polish American Congress
Slovak League of America
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
Ukrainian National Association
Today, April 25, CEEC representatives have organized Advocacy day on the Capitol Hill where CEEC is lobbying in support of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011.
Tuesday, April 24, Foreign Policy magazine published that Magnitsky bill to sanction Russian human rights violators will not be taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week after the Obama administration urged Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) to keep it off the committee’s agenda, The Cable has learned.
Last month, Kerry indicated that the Magnitsky Act would be brought up for a vote at the April 26 SFRC business meeting and he also endorsed the idea of combining the Magnitsky bill with a bill to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status and repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law. “In good faith, we will move as rapidly as we can, hopefully the minute we’re back, but certainly shortly thereafter,” Kerry said March 27, just before the last Senate recess.
But after what several Senate aides described as intense lobbying from top Obama administration officials, including Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, Kerry decided not to put the bill on the agenda of the next business meeting, delaying consideration of the bill until May at the earliest, after the visit to the U.S. of Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin.
In a statement to The Cable, Kerry said he still supports quick passage of the Magnitsky bill and its linkage to the repeal of Jackson-Vanik, but that he needed more time to iron out differences over the details of the legislation.
“I support this effort and, as I said at the last business meeting, passing the Magnitsky legislation out of our committee is not a question of if, only when. I’ve been trying to get everyone on the same page because that’s how you get the best legislative result, and everyone was explicitly very comfortable with where we were. My goal here is to get the best result,” Kerry said.
But several aides told The Cable that not everybody was comfortable with the delay. The Cableobtained an e-mail sent late last week from the staff of committee Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN) to several Democratic Senate offices including that of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill’s main sponsor, in which Lugar protests the delay strongly.
“We want to reiterate Senator Lugar’s position, as he stated at the last business meeting, that he strongly supports having the Magnitsky Act taken up at the next business meeting (i.e. next week),” the e-mail reads.
“As we understand the situation, the White House and State Department have been frantic over the last 24 hours in trying to head off consideration of the bill next week by contacting numerous Democratic offices,” Lugar’s staff wrote. “Thus, our position remains as it has been: Senator Lugar supports immediate consideration of the Magnitsky bill-next week. If Senators Kerry and/or Cardin do not wish to have it taken up then, that is prerogative of the SFRC Majority, but it is not the position of Senator Lugar.”
The Obama administration is on the record opposing the Magnitsky bill and believes that its passage could imperil U.S.-Russian cooperation on a range of issues. The Russian government has even threatened to scuttle the New START nuclear reductions treaty if the Magnitsky bill is passed, which would erase the signature accomplishment of the administration’s U.S.-Russia reset policy.
“Senior Russian government officials have warned us that they will respond asymmetrically if legislation passes,” the administration said in its official comments on the bill last July. “Their argument is that we cannot expect them to be our partner in supporting sanctions against countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and sanction them at the same time. Russian officials have said that other areas of bilateral cooperation, including on transit Afghanistan, could be jeopardized if this legislation passes.”
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said Monday at a lunch with reporters in Washington that passage of the Magnitsky bill would have a “significant negative impact” on the U.S.-Russia relationship and said it was unacceptable for the United States to interfere in the Magnitsky case, which he said was an internal Russian issue.
“It’s artificially attached to the whole issue of Jackson Vanik… It’s politically motivated,” he said. “We do not want to be told what to do within the limits of Russian law.”
Kislyak then said there were human rights violations in the United States that Russia could raise in the context of trade negotiations, but chooses not to.
“I could bring up one example that is very much on our minds. Three years of long investigation of the killing of children adopted from Russia, with absolute immunity, but we do not bring that issue into the economic realm,” he said.
Cardin, meanwhile, has been working with administration behind the scenes to make changes to the Magnitsky bill, and even came up with a new draft version of the legislation last week, before the delay. The Cable obtained an internal document showing exactly what changed in the bill.
For example, the new version makes it more difficult to add names to the list of human rights violators that the bill would create. In the previous version, any member of Congress could request to add the name of an alleged human rights violator to the bill. In the new version, both the chair and ranking member of a relevant committee must jointly request someone be added to the list, a high bar in a partisan Congress.
Cardin is caught by between his desire to see his legislation passed without being gutted and his desire to work with the administration. In a brief interview with The Cable last week, he insisted he still wants the Magnitsky bill joined with the legislation that will repeal Jackson-Vanik and grant Russia PNTR.
“There’s a growing support in the Senate to make sure it’s part of the PNTR debate,” he said. “We’d like SFRC to mark it up and then take it to the Senate Finance Committee and make it part of the PNTR bill.”
The exact logistics for how the Magnitsky bill is moved in conjunction with the PNTR bill are up in the air. It could be joined in the Senate Finance Committee, or on the Senate floor, or just passed at the same time. But what’s clear is that there are several senators ready to hold up PNTR for Russia if the Magnitsky bill isn’t considered in conjunction.
Among Capitol Hill staffers, there’s also concern that the administration may be negotiating to water down the Magnitsky bill now, only to ultimately oppose it later. A similar dynamic played out over sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran last December. Then, it was Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) who carried water for the administration before discovering they would ultimately oppose the bill no matter what. Menendez was livid. That bill passed the Senate 100-0.
“The last thing the Obama administration wants is Magnitsky to pass and not PNTR, but at the rate they are going, it could be likely that neither moves,” one senior Senate GOP aide told The Cable. ”The administration’s strategy is to delay as long as possible any SFRC consideration, in hopes that in a year with few legislative days the window for Magnitsky passage narrows and disappears.”
Tuesday afternoon, Kerry’s Communications Director Jodi Seth sent the following statement on the delay to The Cable:
“The decision not to put the Magnitsky bill on the agenda for the business meeting on April 26 was made only after consultations with relevant committee offices. At no time during the decision-making process did Lugar staff raise any objection to not adding the bill to the agenda.”
Lithuanian American Council along with CEEC partners is seeking the passage of the Magnitsky bill as soon as possible.
WASHINGTON – The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) will hold its annual Advocacy Day on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. The Advocacy Day will include briefings, meetings with Members of Congress, an evening event on Capitol Hill, and a reception.
On Wednesday morning, beginning at 8:30 am, an informative briefing session will take place at the historic Stewart Mott House with presentations on issues of concern to the CEEC’s respective American communities: Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe; security concerns; the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago; appropriations programs in the region; Visa Waiver program; human/minority rights, genocide affirmation and historical accuracy; and exchange programs.
During the day-long event, participants in the Advocacy Day will meet with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and their staffs to discuss key policy issues on the topics outlined above. Among the planned visits are with the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Central and East Europe, Congressmen Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL). The Caucus is committed to enhancing relations between the United States and Central and Eastern Europe.
After the Congressional meetings, participants are invited to attend an evening event sponsored by the Armenian Assembly of America to remember the Armenian genocide. The event will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building, and will include invited members of the House and Senate, Advocacy Dayparticipants, and representatives from the communities.
The CEEC encourages the active participation of all our communities in promoting the need for greater U.S. foreign policy engagement in Central and Eastern Europe. Our main policy objectives and goals are outlined in our 2012 Policy Paper, which will be made available soon.
For further information, and to register, please contact the CEEC via email at email@example.com or by calling (202) 481-3334.
Established in 1994, the Central and East European Coalition is comprised of 18 nationwide organizations, including the Lithuanian American Council, representing more than 20 million Americans who trace their heritage to that part of the world.
Representative of JBANC, LAC’s Public Affairs Bureau in Washington D.C., to Give a Presentation on Baltic American Activism in the U.S. at the AABS-Chicago Conference this April.
Karl Altau, the Managing Director of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), will present a paper on Baltic activism in the United States at the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies Conference in Chicago on April 26-28.
JBANC was founded in 1961 to support the restoration of independence, human rights and democracy to the Baltic countries. It was founded by and represents three main Baltic American organizations – the Estonian American National Council, the American Latvian Association, and the Lithuanian American Council.
During the last 50 years, JBANC worked for the restoration of Baltic independence, and actively campaigned for Baltic membership in NATO. JBANC, an established participant to Washington’s foreign policy discussions, has refocused its activities on human rights issues – particularly addressing the current situation in Belarus, and condemning recent political murders in the Russian Federation, as in the case of attorney Sergei Magnitsky. JBANC is currently preparing for the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012.
To achieve its aims, JBANC works with the Baltic-American community and other organizations. These include the Central and East European Coalition, the Maryland Estonia Exchange Council and the State of Maryland, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Mr. Altau will address the future of the Baltic-American advocacy and its promotion in the public and private sectors.
The 23rd biennial Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) conference will begin at 12 Noon on April 26 and will continue through April 28, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Plenary speakers include the ambassadors to the U.S. of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia; a member of Latvia’s Parliament; and a linguist from University of Pisa (Italy). The president of AABS (2010-2012) is Vėjas Liulevičius (University of Tennessee). The AABS Conference Chair is professor Giedrius Subačius (University of Illinois at Chicago). The conference is expected to draw over 200 attendees from at least 16 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
AABS CONFERENCE CONFIRMED PLENARY SESSION SPEAKERS:
H.E. Marina Kaljurand, Estonian Ambassador to the United States
H.E. Žygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States
H.E. Andrejs Pildegovics Latvian Ambassador to the United States
Baltic Ambassadors will participate in a roundtable plenary discussion.
Dr. Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis, an economist and a member of Latvia’s Parliament
Dr. Pietro U. Dini, professor, linguist and translator at the Università di Pisa
We hope to see you at the conference!
2012 AABS Local Arrangements Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
AABS conference registration link:
Accommodations and other information, and the Facebook page:
The Central and East European Coalition, Lithuanian American Council is one of the 18 member organizations,(CEEC) announced today that it will hold its annual Advocacy Day on Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
The Advocacy Day will include briefings, meetings with Members of Congress, as well as an evening reception with invited members of the Congressional Caucus on Central and East Europe. Co-chaired by Congressmen Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the Caucus is committed to enhancing relations between the United States and Central and Eastern Europe.
On Wednesday morning, an informative briefing session will take place at the historic Stewart Mott House with presentations on issues of concern to the CEEC’s respective American communities: Russian influence in Central and Eastern Europe; security concerns; the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago; appropriations programs in the region; Visa Waiver program; human/minority rights, genocide affirmation and historical accuracy; and, exchange programs.
During the day-long event, participants in the Advocacy Day will meet with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and their staffs to discuss key policy issues on the topics outlined above.
After the Congressional meetings, an evening reception will also take place at the Mott House with invited members of the House and Senate, Advocacy Day participants, and representatives from the communities.
The CEEC encourages the active participation of all our communities in promoting the need for greater U.S. foreign policy engagement in Central and Eastern Europe.
For further information, please contact the CEEC via email at email@example.com or by calling (202) 481-3334.
Established in 1994, the Central and East European Coalition is comprised of 18 nationwide organizations representing more than 20 million Americans who trace their heritage to that part of the world.
Lithuania, a country approximately the size of West Virginia, is situated on the southeast shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania’s existence is currently being threatened by nuclear power plants (NPPs) which Belarus and Russia are planning to build adjacent to Lithuania’s eastern and southwestern borders.
One NPP containing two reactors, will be situated in Astravets, Belarus, approximately 12 miles east of Lithuania and about 31 miles from its capital city of Vilnius. The other set of two reactors will be constructed in the Kaliningrad enclave approximately 6 miles south and west of Lithuania’s border. (The Kaliningrad enclave is a small patch of Russian-administered land wedged between the European Union nations of Poland and Lithuania.) In case of a nuclear disaster, the two NPPs pose a grave danger to Lithuania.
The Kaliningrad and the Belarus NPPs, by being built on the borders of Lithuania, place the entire country in a ominous nuclear vise (Figure 1). A nuclear failure at either plant would expose large and densely populated areas of Lithuania to deadly radiation and nuclear poisoning. The NPP in Belarus would impact the entire metropolitan Vilnius region and thus more than a third of Lithuania’s population (Figure 2). A failure in the Kaliningrad NPP would place approximately a fourth of Lithuania’s population at risk. (Figure 3). In total, more than half of Lithuania’s population would be subjected to nuclear-based devastation in the event that both plants experience concurrent nuclear disasters. While such simultaneous NPP failures may at first appear to be remote, they are not beyond the realm of the possible. One need only consider Chernobyl and the 9/11 attack as well as human error, negligence, defects in planning and construction, acts of terror, war, seismic activity and aircraft crashes.
Lithuania is deeply concerned in that Russia and Belarus have not coordinated or reconciled the site selection with Lithuania from a safety standpoint. Lithuania deems the proposed sites as major and unnecessary risks to its survival not only in terms of potential radiation poisoning of its population, but also the consequent devastation of its land and urban areas. Any new nuclear plant construction must consider the consequences of the meltdowns in Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. According to Gregory Yaczko, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in his report to the American Association for the dvancement of Science Symposium in 2011, the area affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster covers an 80 km radius, and at present it cannot be established when the displaced inhabitants could return to their homes.
Nuclear incidents do not recognize state or country borders, or even great bodies of water. As a case in point, Sweden suffered radioactive cesium contamination from the Chernobyl disaster even though it was some 500 miles distant from the site, including 200 miles over the Baltic Sea. It stands to reason that such volatile objects should not be constructed on the borders of a neighboring country exposing it to a risk of mortal danger. To preclude such an occurrence, international conventions on nuclear safety require transparency, bilateral and multilateral review, and due process leading to a resolution of disputed issues. The parties of origin, in this case Russia and Belarus, are mandated to adhere to internationally established nuclear safety standards as established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Notwithstanding Lithuania’s numerous requests directed to Russia and Belarus for the site selection criteria as to both NPPs, neither Russian and Belarusan authorities have produced any substantive data but for self-serving conclusory assertions that they are in compliance with safety standards. In contrast, IAEA and Espoo conventions require that there be compliance with clearly stated processes before the construction of new NPPs. They include: justification, generic design assessment, strategic siting assessment, national policy statement, licensing and planning. The sequence of these internationally established procedures are logical and necessary, and should be strictly adhered to and not be preemptively dismissed by the parties of origin.
Summary of Issues
The Lithuanian American Council (LAC) is concerned that once the construction of the Belarus and Kaliningrad NPPs has commenced, Lithuania will be confronted with an irreversible situation. LAC agrees with Lithuania’s authorities that NPPs planned at the currently designated Belarus and Kaliningrad sites, constitute a threat to Lithuania’s existence. The following considerations summarize our concerns:
1.Consequences from structural damage to the reactors caused by seismic disturbances, external impacts, and acts of terrorism;
2.Questionable structural, electrical and mechanical integrities of subject NPPs;
3.Sufficiency of water and other physical resources needed to contain the effects of a nuclear disaster;
4.Safety of Lithuania’s population in the event of minor and major NPP failures;
5.Provisions for notification of emergencies and evacuation of the populace;
6.Effects on water, vegetation and habitat over the entire land area of Lithuania, and Kaliningrad and Belarus regions;
7.Availability of funds to cover shelter and subsistence for evacuees;
8.Plans and provisions to resolve long term contamination effects;
9.Short term and long term storage and removal of spent nuclear fuel;
10.Consent of the populations at risk
1. Consequences from structural damage to the reactors caused by seismic effects, external impacts, and acts of terrorism
The recent Fukushima nuclear accident has focused the international community on the need to evaluate the risks and consequences of all possible scenarios potentially placing nuclear reactors at risk. Notwithstanding this international consensus, Belarusan and Russian authorities continue to ignore, or at best minimize, the risks of earthquakes on the reactors at the proposed NPP sites.
Belarus in the EIA states that:
There is a zone in the southwest part of the region (…) In 1908, according to the archives and literary sources, a big earthquake took place in Ostrovetsky district with the epicentre being near the settlement of Gudoai. It measured 6-7 on the MSK-64 scale and the effects were substantial in magnitude.
However, in the following sentence, Belarus authorities assert that the “….maximum probable earthquake magnitude would not be expected to exceed a level of 5,” based on their own self-serving and unsubstantiated evaluation that there exists a “…low probability of stronger earthquake.”
Russia has not made any public earthquake assessments in the Kaliningrad region, even though in the immediate vicinity of the proposed NPP a Richter 5 level earthquake was recorded as late as 2004.
Furthermore, Ivan Grabelnikov, the chief engineer overseeing the Kaliningrad NPP project, in the course of a technical conference conceded that neither the VVER-1200 reactors nor its buildings have undergone simulation testing with respect to potential aircraft crashes at the site. On the other hand, nuclear facilities operating in Western Europe are currently required to substantiate that new reactors will be able to withstand such impacts. A direct plane crash into a reactor containment building would not only destabilize the reactor, but would also jeopardize the integrity of the onsite storage facilities housing the spent but still radioactive nuclear fuel. To the best of LAC’s knowledge, no protection is provided against such incidents at either the Kaliningrad or Belarus sites. This is especially disconcerting as there exists a major north-south flight corridor over the planned NPP site in Belarus. It is also a matter of record that in 2005, a Russian fighter jet actually crashed in Lithuania near the planned Kaliningrad NPP site.
2. Questionable structural, electrical and mechanical integrities of subject NPPs
Recently Russian authorities claimed that comprehensive stress tests (allegedly applying standards beyond those adopted by the EU) were performed on all NPPs in the Russian Federation with positive results. However, the structural collapse of the Leningrad-2 NPP containment building in the summer of 2011 raises questions about the veracity of such claims and the validity of the tests. Russia’s own internal reports confirm that equipment failures at nuclear power plants are fairly frequent because of “…such underlying causes as mismanagement, flaws in maintenance organization, manufacturing and design defects.”
Furthermore, the VVER-1200 reactors belong to a completely new Russian reactor series, dubbed as AES-2006. They are touted by Rosatom as the latest and safest technological achievement. But the fact is, this reactor model has no extensive history of operation to substantiate such safety or reliability claims. During the construction of a similar reactor in China, the Russian contractor received repeated complaints from the Chinese concerning the quality of materials used and equipment employed. These concerns eventually led to a significant delay in the NPP construction. During the first year of operation, the reactor in China had to be stopped twice to deal with unplanned maintenance procedures.
Both, the Russian Federation and Belarus ought conduct risk and safety assessments for these particular reactors applying IAEA test and evaluation protocols and provide documented assessments for review by the European Commission as well as to the Republic of Lithuania, as the principle affected and aggrieving party.
3. Sufficiency of water and other physical resources needed to contain the effects of a nuclear disaster
Sufficient water resources are needed at NPPs not only to cool reactors in the course of normal operation, but also to contain nuclear fires and reduce the escape of nuclear contaminants into the atmosphere in the case of an accident. The Fukushima nuclear disaster required several million cubic meters of water merely to limit the spread of fire. During the nuclear fire, even the quantity of water in the large Fukushima cooling basin was insufficient. A significant quantity of water had be pumped directly from the ocean to the site.
Limited water supplies at the Belarus NPP are a particularly critical issue. There are no significant water resources in the region. The nearest sizeable stream that is to provide and fill the cooling basin is several miles away. It is approximately the size of the Rock Creek in Washington, D.C., flowing more in the rainy season and nearly dry during summer droughts. Furthermore, the stream’s water level is some 42 m. lower than the plateau of the terrain of the NPP. This further limits water availability to contain critical reactor events. While the size of the proposed cooling basin is not known, it is obvious that short of creating a very large lake, a limited size cooling basin would not be sufficient to contain a reactor meltdown.
It also needs to be pointed out that down-flowing waters from the nearby creeks merge into the Neris River which is less than 30 miles downstream and meanders through the center of the city of Vilnius. The river, before reaching Vilnius, becomes the principal source of potable water for nearly a million people living in the metropolitan Vilnius area. In the event of leakage or fallout of nuclear contaminants into the area’s waterways, Vilnius and the surrounding area would become uninhabitable and the land unsuitable for agricultural use. It would decimate the wildlife in the region, and for many miles would poison the entire downstream river basin that is situated entirely within Lithuania’s borders.
With regard to water resources for the Kaliningrad NPP, Russia is planning to divert part of the sizeable Nemunas River to fill the cooling basin. The river, 6 miles north of the NPP, constitutes a common border between Lithuania and the Kaliningrad oblast, until it reaches the delta area, some 40 miles to the west. LAC has no knowledge of how much water would be diverted to accommodate the Kaliningrad NPP, the size of the proposed cooling basin, and whether the volume of water would be sufficient to contain a nuclear meltdown. However, it is certain that any down-flowing return of contaminated water from the NPP into the river Nemunas would seriously endanger the downstream part of the entire river basin and the inhabitants living along its shores. Of even greater concern is the ecological impact on the Nemunas river delta, merely 40 miles downstream from the NPP site. The delta area is located entirely within the territory of Lithuania, with water flowing extremely slowly or not at all. Atomic residue from the Kaliningrad NPP would accumulate in significant quantities, creating a cesspool of irradiated nuclear waste. The delta area is not only densely populated, but it is also a major wildlife sanctuary, particularly as a stopover point for migratory birds between Europe’s northern nesting grounds in summer and southern grounds in Africa during the winter season. In case of nuclear poisoning of the delta waters, the entire ecosystem of central Europe would be jeopardized.
4. Safety of Lithuania’s population in the event of minor and major NPP failures
Radioactive materials escaping from a nuclear power plant can have varying effects depending on the type of failure and the distance of populated areas from the failure site. In the case of the Chernobyl disaster, 30 workers died within a month after being exposed to high levels of radiation at that site. Many others, in the thousands, sustained serious injuries from radioactive exposure. Some of them died later, but many suffered ongoing illnesses, traumatized for the remainder of their lives. In the Fukushima radiation zone in the wake of the meltdowns high death rates were recorded among the abandoned livestock. Of the 3,500 cattle that remained in the radiation zone, 2,500 died, and the remaining appear terminally ill.
Large doses of ionizing radiation can cause cell death, while lower doses may interfere with cellular proliferation. Response to radiation depends on rapidity and the portion of the body exposed. Significant illness is certain, and death is possible, when a whole-body dose exceeds 4.5 Gy delivered over a short time interval.
Children and pregnant women are more susceptible to radiation injury because of their higher rate of cellular proliferation. After the Chernobyl meltdown, over the period of 1990-1998, 60% of children tested were found suffering from radiation effects; 1,981 of them were diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Victims subjected to a high level of radiation either die shortly after exposure (cerebrovascular syndrome) or, if they survive, will sustain incurable longer term damage to their intestines, suffering vomiting and diarrhea, and to their bone marrow resulting in weakened red cell production and eventual onset of cancer.
Lower dose damage in the first thirty days rarely cause immediate danger to human life (GI syndrome), but symptoms of radiation can be felt as chronic fatigue, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, incurable sores, loss of hair, and eventually may develop into leukemia or other forms of cancer. Other effects could include genetic mutation, premature aging, and disorders of the nervous and mental systems.
The toxins and long term effect of radiation poisoning make it imperative that the impacted populace be immediately evacuated from the affected area to assure minimal exposure to radiation. It is also essential that needed medical assistance including medications be held in readiness and be made available to counteract the effects of radiation exposure.
Neither Russia nor Belarus has offered to discuss preparation and provision for such eventualities, and to date, the potential radiological impact of a nuclear accident on Lithuania’s population has not been properly addressed, let alone evaluated, by either of the project sponsors.
5. Provisions for notification of emergencies and evacuation of the populace
Early warning and extensive emergency evacuation provisions need to be established in bilateral discussions and treaties. Lithuania currently has a bilateral treaty with Belarus on early notification of nuclear accidents. Lithuania has also proposed such a treaty with the Russian Federation, but so far it has failed to respond. Furthermore, there are no discussions on how Russia and Belarus would facilitate, in the event of a nuclear disaster, the evacuation of Lithuania’s capital Vilnius and other densely populated areas. In the case of the Chernobyl accident, immediate evacuation of some 120,000 people during the first 24 hours had to be effected. Similarly, the Fukushima accident resulted in the evacuation of 170,000 people within a similar period. Since any Belarus and/or Kaliningrad NPP failures would affect mostly the people of Lithuania numbering in many hundreds of thousands, clear evacuation plans and adequate means to do so must be developed in bilateral agreements as required by the Espoo Convention.
6. Effects on water, vegetation and habitat over the entire land of Lithuania, and Kaliningrad and Belarus regions
In the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, large tracts of land were found to be contaminated. None of the agricultural products, be it vegetation or livestock, were suitable for human consumption. Even now several decades after the Chernobyl meltdown, the soil remains unsuitable for growing vegetation and raising animals.
Inasmuch as a significant nuclear leakage would involve contamination of major parts of Lithuania’s territory, bilateral agreements must be concluded, before any construction work is to commence, on procedures to avoid or minimize damage, and, on methods of compensation, including restitution of contaminated sites to their original condition. A model fund for restitution of contaminated areas has been developed by the United States. It is known as Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund. The model could be used as a basis for negotiation between Lithuania and Russia/Belarus. The statute assures that parties or organizations responsible for contamination are held accountable for costly cleanup and restitution of the contaminated sites.
7. Availability of funds to cover shelter and subsistence for long term evacuees
The Chernobyl accident resulted in some 330,000 people being permanently displaced, sustaining loss of their homes, places of business, and employment. The Chernobyl accident and the measures taken to deal with its consequences have cost the Soviet Union at that time – and later Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine – hundreds of billions of dollars. Today, social benefits are paid to some 7 million people who have sustained harm from by the Chernobyl accident. Such payments are a huge burden on national budgets and, because of their size, in the long run, may not be sustainable.
Similar experience is facing the people of the Fukushima region. Of the 170,000 evacuated, some 70,000 people are unable to return to their former living areas as they are deemed too dangerous for habitation.
Any significant Belarus and Kaliningrad NPP failures involving a major radiation leakage or meltdown, would predominantly impact the people of Lithuania. Accordingly, adequate funds or insurance must be set aside by owners of the reactors and escrowed by a third party to pay for possible long term losses. Considering past experience, reluctance to acknowledge such events and even their severities, and refusal to honor agreements and promises, verbal assurances by the governments of Belarus and Russia to assume financial responsibility are inadequate. This question can only be resolved through ironclad commitments before any NPP construction is started.
8. Plans and provisions to resolve long term contamination effects
The Chernobyl accident involved the discharge of substantial quantities of radioactive substances into the environment. An area of 76,100 km2 was contaminated mostly with high concentrations of radioactive nuclides such as iodine 131, cesium-137 and strontium 90. The contaminations required mass evacuations of people. It disrupted the way of life and economic activity in various parts of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In just the first year after the accident, 144,000 hectares of farm land were taken out of use, forestry work was stopped in an area of 492,000 hectares, and most industrial and agricultural enterprises ceased operations in the affected area.
Assuming a uniform circular dispersion pattern within a radius of 70 km., a Chernobyl level accident at the Belarus NPP could contaminate approximately 6,000 km2 (approx. 10%) of Lithuania’s territory by high concentrations of nuclides. The affected area would include the entire city of Vilnius with some 600,000 inhabitants. A Chernobyl level meltdown at the Kaliningrad NPP could affect more than 10,000 km2 or about 16% of Lithuania’s area. Since radiation contamination of buildings and land would have long term effects and prevent their use, agreements must be reached on how the contaminated objects would be restored to their pre-damage state, or what other type of remedies need to be considered. While the likelihood of a Chernobyl-type accident is small, nevertheless, Lithuania’s concerns must be addressed and consideration given to alternative sites.
Minimal acceptable distances from the NPP to Lithuania’s borders must be established and assurances given that drainage and down-flow of any contaminated waters into its territory will be prevented. This all must be determined by mutual agreement between parties before construction of the NPPs commences.
9. Short and long term storage and removal of spent nuclear fuel
Used nuclear fuel is a solid material that is initially securely stored at nuclear plant sites. This temporary storage is one component of an integrated spent fuel management system that addresses all facets of intermediate and long term storing of radioactive nuclear fuel.
Spent nuclear fuel that remains stored at nuclear power plants, is normally contained in steel-lined, concrete pools or basins filled with water. Upon initial cool-off period of some 5 to 10 years, it is transferred to massive, airtight steel or concrete-and-steel containers. Eventually, after several decades the spent fuel rods may be transferred to a permanent geologic repository unless recycled for reuse, or a new technology is discovered for their use in other applications.
The stored spent material, similar to virgin nuclear material used by the NPP, is subject to terrorist attacks, natural disasters such as power failures, overheating due to coolant leakage, destruction by acts of war, and accidental or targeted plane crashes. Any damage to containers and their content can result in a dangerous release of radioactive contaminants. While it may be assumed that eventually spent nuclear materials would be transferred from the Belarus NPP by way of safely packaged railroad containers to some permanent storage sites in Russia, LAC has no information confirming that such will occur.
Of equal concern is the handling and storage of radioactive materials at the Kaliningrad site, since it is less than six miles from Lithuania. LAC has no information as to Russia’s plans concerning the storing of the spent radioactive materials at the NPP site. Neither is there any information on the transportation provisions which will be employed to transfer the spent nuclear waste for permanent storage. Russia’s EIA report on the Kaliningrad NPP provides a statement that a route of transporting the spent materials from the NPP in Kaliningrad to a burial site will be defined in the working documentation. In as much as railroad transport of such materials through Lithuania might not be admissible, the only other way to remove the materials would be either by sea transport or air. Some Russian publications imply that spent nuclear fuel would be transported from the Kaliningrad NPP by the Baltic Sea to the nuclear waste repository in Sosnovy Bor, near Saint Petersburg. However, if such a transport mode would be employed, Russia’s current EIA is silent on possible perils to all of the Baltic sea countries in case of a shipwreck or partial cargo loss.
Even though Lithuania has posed questions to Russia and Belarus on methods of disposal of the spent fuel, the LAC notes that Russia to date has failed to address or even seriously acknowledge this critical issue.
10 Consent of affected public, alternative sites, bilateral agreements
Russia and Belarus are disregarding Lithuania’s objections to the proposed construction of nuclear plants adjacent to Lithuania’s border. The site locations for the nuclear reactors pose a threat to Lithuania’s survival as a nation. Accordingly, the construction of both NPPs are in violation of the Espoo and IAEA conventions.
The Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context of 1991 addresses the responsibilities of the Parties of origin (project initiators).
The Espoo Convention in Article 2 requires that:
1) The Parties shall, either individually or jointly, take all appropriate and effective measures to prevent, reduce and control significant adverse transboundary environmental impact from proposed activities, and
2) the Party of origin shall provide, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, an opportunity to the public in the areas likely to be affected to participate in relevant environmental impact assessment procedures regarding proposed activities and shall ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of the affected Party is equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin.
Article 5 notes that:
The Party of origin shall, after completion of the environmental impact assessment documentation, without undue delay enter into consultations with the affected Party concerning possible alternatives to the proposed activity, including the no-action alternative and possible measures to mitigate significant adverse transboundary impact and to monitor the effects of such measures at the expense of the Party of origin.
Article 6 states that:
The Party of origin shall provide to the affected Party the final decision on the proposed activity along with the reasons and considerations on which the decision was based.
Furthermore, the IAEA Commission decision, 1999/819/Euratom, of November 16, 1999, concerning the accession to the 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) notes that “In choosing the site, one must consider, inter alia, its effect on the safety of the installation and the effects of the installation on individuals and the environment.” It notes further that other contracting parties in the vicinity of the site must also be consulted if the installation is likely to have consequences for them.
While Belarus claims to have presented Lithuania with an environmental impact assessment regarding its NPP, LAC is informed that the Lithuanian government has rejected the assessment saying that questions submitted to Belarus have not been responded to properly, and that claimed public hearings in Vilnius were either a sham or fabrication, and that actually no substantive consultations have taken place.
There was even less consultation with Russia regarding the Kaliningrad NPP. Russia has neither held public hearings nor offered to participate in bilateral consultations despite Lithuania’s request to do so.
It is noted that Constituents in Belarus and Kaliningrad as well as in Lithuania in a series of public demonstrations have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the construction of subject NPPs.
LAC is concerned that the NPPs’ site selections were based on political considerations rather than on Espoo and IAEA established criteria requiring that the selection be grounded on sound environmental criteria and particularly by addressing the safety of the population situated near the site.
Lithuania has filed a complaint with the secretariat of the Espoo Convention stating that Belarus, contrary to its assertion, has not complied with mandated procedures of the environment impact assessment process, as is required by the Espoo Convention. Lithuania has also submitted a similar note to the secretariat of the Espoo Convention on the deficiencies in Russia’s response regarding the proposed NPP in Kaliningrad. Russian authorities blatantly assert that they are in compliance with Espoo and are following its provisions, notwithstanding its failure to enter into any consultations with Lithuania.
Based on the analysis presented here regarding the two proposed NPP sites, it is amply clear that the EIA process has not been satisfactorily completed and that the requirements of the Espoo Convention have not been fulfilled by Russia and Belarus. Considering the potentially severe consequences for Lithuania in the event of a nuclear failure at either the Belarus or the Kaliningrad reactors, the international community must respond and insist that established nuclear standards be adhered to. LAC urges the United States legislative and executive branches to address Belarus and Russia’s governments insisting that they cease any further activity on these projects until the EIA process is accomplished and all issues are resolved in accordance with international nuclear safety standards, principles, and conventions.
Dr. Stan (Stasys) Backaitis, P.E., SAE Fellow1
Lithuanian American Council
On September 17, more than 30 Balts representing 11 different Baltic-American organizations came together to discuss possible areas for cooperation towards common goals. The “Baltics ReUnited (?)” conference was organized by the Global Lithuanian Leaders, a group of Lithuanian professionals; the Joint Baltic American National Committee, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year, and the Lithuanian Student Association of North America. The event was hosted by the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania.
Edvinas Minkstimas, the moderator and a representative of the GLL, welcomed guests gathered and invited the representatives of Baltic organizations to introduce themselves, their organizations’ history, and current projects and goals.
Following the organizational introductions, a discussion followed to highlight common problems, goals and ideas. A universal theme emerged as participants voiced their opinions that Balts in the U.S. have much in common, but that the essential element for cooperation is cross-organizational and cross-generational dialogue.
The discussion eventually focused on political activism, which has significantly decreased after the reestablishment of Baltic independence. Freedom is sometimes more difficult to maintain than to fight for, a fact evidenced by a perceivable lack of interest in politics among younger Baltic-Americans and older generations that graduated from political activism after the 1990’s.
It was agreed that in order to improve communication between different groups, Baltic Americans must utilize modern technological tools. Suggestions to create a Baltic App, adopt-a-media campaign, or to write relevant political blogs to inform and educate the Baltic-American population might be possible projects to pursue.
Technology could also help facilitate sharing of information about Baltic-American organizations by establishing an all encompassing online database.
Ultimately, the conference identified the common goal of promoting a more cohesive Baltic image in the United States. To accomplish this, Baltic-Americans must continue a regular dialogue and cooperation that reaches multiple generations.
Thus, involvement of young Baltic-Americans in the active Baltic image formation is key to a successful campaign. Current Baltic-American leaders need to acknowledge that younger generations have interests that are much different from theirs. While young people might understand that politics are important, not everything is about politics. A common, cross-generational platform needs to be found to ensure the longevity of the Baltic image effort.
As the “Baltics ReUnited (?)” conference drew to a close, a proposal was made to make the conference a regular, perhaps yearly, event. Such a move would significantly increase Baltic capabilities to act much more effectively with an expanded scope.
Washington, DC (JBANC) — In its continuous effort to advocate for issues important to the Baltic-American community, the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) actively participated in an April 13 Advocacy Day for the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC). The Advocacy Day involved meetings with key staffers in both the Senate and House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress.
The purpose of the Advocacy Day was to communicate a unified position of CEEC member organizations and constituencies to members of Congress on the following pressing priority issues: democracy development and human and minority rights – particularly with respect to recent developments in Belarus; Russia’s undue influence in Central and Eastern Europe; geo-political security issues including energy and cyber security concerns in the region; easing of visa requirements; and appropriations programs for the region.
JBANC was one of the active organizers and participants of Advocacy Day, an event that included meetings with both Majority and Minority staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as with staff members for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-M), Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), and Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD). JBANC was represented by Markus Videnieks of the American Latvian Association, Stan Backaitis of the Lithuanian American Council, Karl Altau, Peter Chereson, and CEEC intern Piret Laiverik.
The CEEC is a coalition of 18 diaspora organizations from 13 ethnic communities representing more than 20 million Americans, and was formed in 1994. The next CEEC Advocacy Day is scheduled for September 2011. As during September 2010, JBANC plans to invite representatives from the Baltic-American communities to participate in scheduled meetings.
JBANC represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association, Inc., and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.
Dr. Stan Backaitis, P.E., SAE Fellow
USCBSC Consortium, member of CEEC
Russia can turn the lights out on Lithuania and the other two Baltic states any time it pleases. And they can’t turn them back on without Russia’s permission.
Not only does this small, central European nation, as well as its neighbors Latvia and Estonia, not have access to the Russian owned-switch, but, to a large extent, it also depends on energy supplies from Russia to power its electricity generating plants; power that is needed for energy and economic independence. Lithuania as well as the other Baltic countries, being poor in energy resources, are facing a tough future and are seeking solutions.
What would you do?
Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP), a Soviet Union built installation with two RBMK-1500 reactors, was finally shut down on December 31, 2009. Closing down INPP was one of the conditions of Lithuania’s accession to membership in the European Union (EU). Overnight, the shut down changed Lithuania from a country exporting large amounts of electricity to a huge electricity importer, mainly from Russia, which is seen as an unreliable, and driven by political motives, supplier. Unfortunately, most of the remaining Lithuania’s power plants, that produce electricity, are fired by natural gas. Russia is its only accessible supplier.
To escape from dependency on Russia’s energy resources, Lithuania’s government, upon shut-down of the first INPP reactor in 2004, (Fig. 1) has made occasional statements of building a new nuclear power plant (NPP) in partnership with Latvia and Estonia. However, beyond rhetoric, nothing concrete was accomplished for the following four years. Only in June 2009, Andrius Kubilius, upon forming a new Lithuanian government, indicated that a new NPP, serving all three Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as Poland , would be built and put into operation in the 2018-20 timeframe.
In December 2009, the newly formed Lithuania’s Energy ministry (ENMIN) announced a tender offer for the development, design, construction, and management of a new NPP at Visaginas (VNPP). Review of some 20 responses indicated that only five of the proposals were worthy of further consideration. In September 2010, the ENMIN asked the five respondents to propose committing bids. Of the two responding parties in November 2010, only South Korea’s “Korea Electric Power Corporation” (KEPCO) was found to be in full compliance with the terms of the tender offer. However, two weeks later on December 10, 2010, KEPCO announced withdrawing its proposed bid.
The news media in Lithuania and the other Baltic countries are busy speculating about reasons for failing to home-in on an investor for the new NPP. The stories range from Russia’s pressure on all bidders to withdraw from the bidding process and its announcements to build two separate NPPs on the eastern and southwestern borders of Lithuania to KEPCO’s withdrawal because of possible armed conflict between North and South Koreas.
This mini study recognizes several factors that appear to have been predominant causes for the failure of the tender offer. They are: political, economic, financial, and indecisions partly due to Russia’s controlling influence on the existing electricity system and partly due to insufficient appreciation by Lithuania’s politicians and energy planners of how large international corporations and financial institutions operate as well as interact with their respective countries’ governments in such large financial commitments.
Although Lithuania and the other two Baltic states have attained political independence, they still belong by virtue of electricity and gas imports to Russia’s sphere of influence (Fig. 2.). Apparently, Russia has no intention to strong-arm the Baltic states over energy issues, since the sale of energy to them provides Russia substantially better margin of profits than sales, for example, to western Europe. Being the sole supplier of energy resources, Russia has a tremendous amount of leverage over the three countries in terms of their price and delivery. To break away from this dependence, Lithuania and its partners Latvia and Estonia announced their intention in 2004 to build a new nuclear plant that would provide them the needed electric power and thus free them of imports from Russia. However, for nearly four years, while the second reactor of INPP was still operating, Lithuania showed little initiative in firming up the plans to build the new NPP.
While Russia until 2008 had no apparent intentions to build a new NPP in the Baltic region, realizing that Lithuania’s plans for a new NPP are in disarray, Moscow took the bull by the horns and announced in early 2009 its decision to construct a two reactor NPP in the Kaliningrad region – the Baltiiskaya nuclear power plant (BNPP). Inasmuch as the first BNPP reactor is aimed to begin operations in 2016 and the second one in 2020, the need for power from a significantly more expensive to fund reactor in Lithuania was put into question. By deciding to build the BNPP, Russia gained a strategic advantage. It reinforced its position as an overpowering electricity supplier to the Baltic region and eventually to Western Europe. This situation has become even more complex by Belarus announcement in 2009 of its intention to build a new NPP in Ostroviec in the Grodno region, in close proximity to the Lithuanian border. Russia’s Putin and Belarus’s Lukashenka (Fig. 3) signed a financial agreement on March 16, 2011, securing Russia’s financial backing in the amount of 9 bln. USD and technical assistance for the Ostroviec project. In return, Russia will own 50 percent share in the future NPP and is likely to offer its share of energy output to the European market.
It appears that Lithuania’s desire to free itself from dependence on Russia’s energy supplies, by building the VNPP, might be a very desirable and valiant goal, but not very realistic in the current energy politics environment. Of course, this might change if the EU agreed to provide substantial funds for this project. However, there are no current signs for this kind of support apart from some vague statements by EU commissioners about the importance of energy independence.
Upon closure of the first INPP reactor in 2004, several Lithuania’s government officials talked on a few occasions, of the need to build a new NPP in partnership with Latvia and Estonia. In 2007 Lithuania invited Poland to join as an additional partner. However, even to date the partnership statements about the new NPP remain more rhetoric than formal commitments and contractual obligations. Normally, such massive projects require published consensus by all parties defining the need and scope of the undertaking, identifying principal elements, time schedules, financial contributions, sharing work and responsibilities by each participant, etc. Of further concern is apparent lack of commitment by both Latvia and Estonia to sever their ties from Russia’s NorthWest (BRELL) power grid, which is essential for the Baltic states to achieve complete electrical independence.
The only accomplishments by Lithuania’s government during the first four years, from closure of the first INPP reactor in 2004, was to create in 2008 a semipublic utility corporation – the LEO.LT and the VNPP project office, with the intention of giving the NPP project some momentum. However, since then, in nearly two years, the rhetoric continued without any visible results.
The ENMIN, upon its establishment by the Kubilius government, dissolved the LEO.LT in September 2010 for its ineffectiveness. Subsequently, the ENMIN issued a tender offer for building the VNPP. However, the ENMIN failed to include its partners in the preparation of the tender offer and thereafter, in the review of the responses. Such exclusion of partners, significantly reduced the integrity and credibility of the project and its importance in the eyes of the bidders, particularly that Latvia, Estonia and Poland are supposed to be financial participants and customers for electricity. To make matters worse, the partners by now were also openly discussing the possibility of going alone with the acquisition of nuclear power plants for own electricity needs.
Shortly after closing INPP’s first reactor in 2004, Lithuania had a relatively easy opportunity to resolve its energy problems by building a new NPP. Its economy was strong and growing, raising the needed finances was relatively easy, and its neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, were very interested in participating in the project as receivers of their share of electricity. Construction of NPPs in the world was until 2007 in relative stagnation, and numerous NPP construction companies were eager to compete for new construction jobs. However, in the latter part of 2007 and in later years, the emerging economic crisis in the Western World and escalating energy demands have begun to radically increase the number of NPP constructions, particularly in China and India. It is to be noted that over 60 new NPP constructions have been started in the past several years throughout the world and many more are planned. Such rapid escalation of construction activity. coupled with less than a dozen companies capable of building NPPs, resulted in large increases of NPP construction costs. Lead times needed to manufacture major reactor and power plant components are now well over five years.
Regrettably, Lithuania’s delay for almost four years to come to a decision undermined a relatively easy opportunity to become a nuclear based power producer again. Current environment for the construction of a new NPP is particularly unfavorable to small, highly indebted countries, compared to those having reasonably large initial down payments including capabilities of guaranteeing repayment of loans. Accordingly, it is not surprising to see low level of interest by large investors to participate in the project, because VNPP’s competitive viability became highly questionable in view of Russia’s intention to construct competing NPPs in the Kaliningrad enclave and in Belorussia.
Russia’s skills to use various opportunities to its advantage should be considered normal commercial practice but with added political overtones. By being a major and an aggressive player in the nuclear field, Russia is capable of offering a variety of economic and financial enticements to attract business. For example, a late news item in the energy news media indicates that Russia offered to provide a long term low interest loan to the Czech Republic if it was awarded the contract to build a two reactor power plant. As a sweetener, the Czech industry would be invited to build a number of large NPP components not only for the Czech plant, but also for other NPPs that Russia is constructing in different parts of the world.
Russia, being keenly aware of the attempts of the Baltic countries to break away from their electric energy dependence, saw upon closure of the INPP, a considerable power shortage developing in the region. It also foresaw, that Lithuania, by delaying its resolve to replace the INPP with a new NPP, would allow Russia to fill the energy void with a two reactor power plant in the Kaliningrad region with expressed aim to sell its output in the Baltic and the Western European markets.
Russia knew that if its new plant NPP was built and put into operation ahead of the VNPP, it would have a significant price advantage over the price of electricity that any future Lithuanian NPP could offer. Such information would be a considerable deterrent to investments in any future NPP venture in Lithuania. It reasoned that since BNPP would be built with non-returnable state funds, Lithuania’s planned NPP, constructed with borrowed private funds, would have to impose hefty surcharges to consumers of its electricity to pay off the debts. Accordingly, VNPP would have great difficulty competing based on the price of electricity that did not carry such charges. Understandably, knowledge of such financial burdens would cast in doubt the financial viability of the VAE in the eyes of any potential investor.
It can be agreed with ENMIN claims that the direct expense to produce electricity at VNPP would be relatively low. However, it needs to be pointed out that the cost to the consumer would be significantly higher upon inclusion of expense to maintain reserve power plants at capacities similar to that of the new NPP, outlays associated with treatment and storage of nuclear waste, profits to the foreign plant operator, payments covering the return on borrowed capital and corresponding interest, and very extensive interior and exterior safety provisions. Published comparisons of average costs for labor and nuclear fuels to produce 1 kWh of electricity at a U.S. NPP are around 2.2 cents USD, and about seven Lithuanian (lt) cents (about 2.7 cents USD) at INPP. The addition of all other expenses, such as operating and maintenance costs at the NPP, plant and equipment amortization, and transmission and distribution of electricity expenses result in an average delivery price between 8 and 9 cents (USD) for 1kWh to the U.S. consumer, while comparable cost of 1 kWh electricity produced by INPP was approx 30 cents (lt) (12 cents USD) to the Lithuanian consumer. After closure of INPP, the price of 1kWh of electricity rose to 45 cents (lt).
Future costs to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity at the future VNPP are unknown. Lithuania’s ENMIN estimates indicate 34 cents (lt). Recently, Turkey signed a nuclear power plant construction contract with Russia. It guaranteed Russia for building and operating the NPP, a purchase price of 35 cents (lt) per kWh for some 15 years. Inasmuch as Lithuania proposed in the tender offer similar funding and operating conditions as those between Turkey and Russia, it would be reasonable to assume that 35 cents (lt) per kWh would be the minimum price of electricity sold by the operator of the future VNPP facility Accordingly, it might be difficult to convince any buyer at the BaltPool or NordPool exchanges to purchase electricity at such a price if Baltiiskaya NPP can offer the same for 10 cents (lt) less or even lower, since it would not be burdened with the return on capital and interest payments. The only way VNPP could compete on price would be by the government subsidizing the price difference.
The price of electricity to the consumer is also dependent on amortization of the plant and the power grid, losses within the transmission and distribution systems, and theft of power from the network. Unfortunately, repayments of interest on the loan will need to start before the first watt of electricity is generated. Inasmuch as Lithuania is already highly indebted, any large loans for the NPP would fall in the high risk category, ranging from 10 to 12 percent interest rates. Assuming that the construction of the VAE would require some 18 to 20 bln. litas (7-8 bln. USD), expected interest payments would keep escalating as the construction is progressing, and would amount to approx. 2 bln. litas (800 mln. USD) annually just before the plant produces the first watt of electricity. Inasmuch as the government does not have any funds to make such payments, this money would have to be collected as additional fees to the consumers of electricity. Such payments would be expected to add approx. 15 to 20 cents (lt) to the normal price of electricity that is either imported or generated by conventional power plants. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to justify a price escalation of this magnitude when the same electricity can be imported or bought from BNPP for substantially less.
While the current Lithuanian government is attempting to remedy this unfortunate course of events, regrettably, the four year delay and the arrival on the scene of other large scale power generating capabilities, might have killed or greatly impeded the opportunity to build a competitive NPP. As a result, Lithuania’s people are now burdened by very high electricity prices, and will have to face not only their further escalation, but also uncertainty in continuous supply of electricity and natural gas in future years.
Lithuania’s politicians regarded the statements by Russian and Belarus leaders of intention to construct the BNPP and the Ostrovets NPPs, as bluffs, even as late as mid 2010. Moscow was quite clear that the BNPP would generate electricity mainly for export to Western European and the Baltic countries and not for internal needs. This was confirmed in March 2011 agreement between BNPP and Lietuvos InterRAO to import to Lithuania 1000 MW of electric power. By deciding to build a new NPP in the Kaliningrad region, Russia assured that Lithuania’s new NPP, if it was to be built, could not compete on price of electricity generated by the BNPP. As a result, once Russia’s plans for the BNPP were made public, it became extremely difficult for Lithuania to attract investors to finance the VAE project, unless the EU would guarantee the loans. Furthermore, most recently Russia invited both Poland and Latvia to participate as partners in the construction of BNPP in an attempt to wean them away from participating in Lithuania’s NPP project. In addition, Poland was offered not only low electricity prices by the BNPP, but also the opportunity to earn money for the transmission of electricity to Western Europe through Poland’s existing power transmission network.
Lithuania’s government created in 2008 a semi-public LEO.LT energy corporation for the purpose of taking care of Lithuania’s energy needs, and by working together with its Latvian and Estonian partners to raise sufficient finances for the construction of a new nuclear power plant at Visaginas. However, upon establishment of LEO.LT, it became apparent that its two shareholders – the government and a private “NDX Energija” corporation – had totally different interests. The government interest was to ensure energy security through construction of a nuclear power plant, while the private investor’s interest was to maximize profits primarily by importing electricity. Such diverse interests were not inducive to good dialogue either in determining on what needs to be done or to conduct constructive discussions with their other partners. To make matters worse, while NDX Energija was to lead and guide the technical effort to build the NPP, its representatives acknowledged that they did not have the needed technical expertise either to plan and organize the building of a nuclear power plant or to raise the needed finances.
Large-scale investors in the western world showed over the years very little interest in Lithuania’s energy problems and particularly, its nuclear initiatives. Significant international investors view Lithuania’s and the Baltic states’ commercial energy viability as highly risky, unattractive due to relatively isolated geographic location, small internal and difficult access to large markets, and poor in natural resources. Discussions with a vice president of one of the largest NPP construction company and with several operators of nuclear power plants revealed that they see “the Baltic countries as too small of a market in the region, bordered by a powerful and unpredictable neighbor who is also a significant size low cost energy producer and is ready to undermine any competition using price and other economic as well as political measures. Lithuania, even partnering with its neighbors, could not assure a return of investment of nearly 10 bln. USD, unless the EU would guarantee the needed loans. Considering that the EU had most recently to rescue a number of euro zone member countries from bankruptcy, it would be extremely difficult to find banks willing and capable of providing high risk loans to additional EU countries that are drowning in debts and for projects that might not be financially viable.
Following the publication of a tender offer for the construction of VNPP, Lithuania, as far it is known, has still failed to engage its potential partners in constructive discussions and developing obligatory agreements on the scope and extent of the new NPP, including their projected power needs and their financial contributions. Without such documentary evidence, it would be very difficult to attract serious investors. In spite of these shortcomings, the press reported several ENMIN hints of some 20 companies responding to the tender offer of which only five were found worthy of further consideration. Upon request of the five to submit binding bids, only two responded. Of the two, only KEPCO was found to be fully responsive to all technical specifications, building deadlines and raising the needed financial resources. At this point, the ENMIN vice minister Romas Svedas noted, that Lithuania was ready to inform its regional partners in Latvia, Estonia and Poland about the agreement with KEPCO. However, after two weeks of submitting the final bid, KEPCO notified the ENMIN on December 16, 2010, of its withdrawal from the project.
The withdrawal from the contest of the last candidate, forced the ENMIN to consider a new phase of negotiations with parties that might be interested in the NPP project based on a different set of conditions. With no time to waste, the ENMIN announced that direct negotiations with potential investors would start in January 2010 with a decision to be made as early as June 2010. Obviously, the new conditions would have to be considerably more favorable to attract potential investors. Knowing of the failure of the tender offer, all potential bidders will be at considerable advantage to extract for them much more favorable financial rewards. Any such agreement would be disadvantageous to Lithuania and its partners. At this point, with the government’s prestige on the line, the government either would have to agree with the best offer it receives, or find some excuse to gracefully withdraw its offer.
Indecisions: a detriment to the future
Lithuania, upon attaining independence, has inherited a number of large industrial enterprises such as INPP, electric power and gas facilities, an oil refinery, a large fishing fleet, sizeable electronics industry, etc. Unfortunately, a number of them were mismanaged and not developed to their full potential. Numerous others were either privatized, sold as junk property or went into bankruptcy and disappeared as functioning entities. Similarly, looking at the government delays to plan and take timely action in constructing the new NPP, keeping the public and the partner countries at a distance, continuously revamping the organization and management of the project, suggests that these actions were not in the best interest of the country and its people. It appears that the opportunity was shattered by competing interests between political parties, personal ambitions, disregard of partners’ interests, and manipulation by powerful and resourceful interests of the neighboring country to gain strategic advantage. Apart from commitment to the EU to close the INPP, it is not clear what rationale guided the planning or the absence of planning of Lithuania’s energy future upon closure of the INPP first reactor in 2004. It can be inferred from some newspaper reports of public officials’ comments that one line of thought was that Lithuania has a reliable natural gas and fuel supplier as well as sufficient power generating capacity of its own to produce adequate amounts of electricity to satisfy all Lithuania’s needs well into mid 2030-s. With gas and oil available in abundance from Russia, there is no urgency to build a replacement nuclear plant for the INPP. Another line of thought was that, shortly before the final closure of the INPP, EU’s authorities in Brussels would be approached with a story that the closure of the second nuclear reactor would create for Lithuania and its population very serious economic hardships. Since it would take nearly a decade to build a new nuclear plant, the EU would be asked to allow the INPP to continue the production of electricity several more years beyond 2010. Unfortunately, Lithuania’s people, who are paying the electricity bills, were never asked of what might be the best approach and/or solution in their judgment.
This line of wishful thinking or self deception prevailed for nearly four years until the arrival of the Kubilius government in late 2008. Although the preceding Kirkilas government announced as early as 2006 informal agreements with Latvia and Estonia to build a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, surprisingly, the “National Energy Strategy 2007″ (NES 2007) document covered the new NPP topic by only one sentence. It stated “that upon closure of the Ignalina NPP and until construction of a new nuclear power plant, the primary source for electricity will be “Lietuvos Elektrine” (Lithuania’s primary power plant)”. In contrast, the same document described in considerable length the development of Lithuania’s energy in future years by diversification of energy sources in line with EU directives, such as competitiveness in energy generation, expanded use of natural gas, energy security, and preparation of proposals for a common EU energy policy dialogue with Russia. Of significance is also a discussion of expanded electricity generation using combined cycle gas turbines at “Lietuvos Elektrine”, whose operation is based on imports of natural gas from Russia.
It is not clear why the Government of Lithuania in spring 2007 did not consult its Latvian and Estonian partners by unilaterally including Poland into the partnership. This greatly alarmed both Latvians and Estonians. As a result, in energy conferences in Tallinn and later in Washington, D.C., both in 2007, Latvian and Estonian speakers were publically discussing consideration of smaller nuclear power plants for their future power needs. Latvia did not hide its frustration with Lithuania’s indecision and fogginess regarding the plans to build a new nuclear power plant. “Of course, we are now, as before, very skeptical about this project. From time to time, us, the Estonians, and the Poles wrote letters to Lithuania’s government, delivered appropriate demarches, hoping to somehow move the Lithuanians into action”, said Artis Camphors the Latvian Minister of Economic Affairs.
After Andrius Kubilius takeover of the government in late 2008 and upon establishment of the ENMIN, an extensive review was initiated to determine Lithuania’s current state of affairs of the energy sector and its future needs with particular concern on steps to be taken to attain energy independence. The ENMIN published on October 6, 2010 a new document the “National Energy Strategy 2010” (NES 2010). A couple months later, the ENMIN dissolved the LEO.LT and separated Lithuania’s electrical grid into East and West sectors, which just a year ago were merged into one conglomerate. However, in both cases, the government employed similar bulldozer tactics as used by the previous government. It did not consult either the public or private sector organizations including industrial and commercial users on how the future might be best served and the desired objectives achieved.
Upon KEPCO’s withdrawal from further discussions, the next round of negotiations with potential contractors might be very difficult and could involve significant additional expenses for NPP construction that might be more than Lithuania and its partners could bear. For this reason, it would be prudent for the ENMIN to lay out to the nation the true status of the nation’s energy, realistic projections of future needs, and an array of alternative measures that could be taken to attain sufficient generating capacity and the best means to achieve energy independence. In follow-on nation-wide hearings, rather than self-serving statistical poles, Lithuania’s taxpayers and energy users should be given the responsibility to decide if they would choose to remain a nuclear country and whether other alternatives should be pursued. Lithuania is in dire need of such public discussions during which the public should have the opportunity to listen not only to government declarations of a brighter vision of the future, which is actually very vague, but also to hear independent energy experts’ views and the positions of different user categories. Such discussions would not only bring for consideration additional relevant data and studies, but also facilitate the search for better solutions.
Recent nuclear plant disasters in Japan, necessitate an in -depth safety review of nuclear technologies for generation of electric power and their internal and external safety provisions. It is essential to reexamine the need for and safety of nuclear power plants not only for use in Lithuania, but also the two NPPs that Russia intends to build in the immediate proximity of Lithuania’s major population centers and at locations with marginal water resources. The of water sufficiency resources to fight NPP fires, potential meltdowns and radiation effects must be considered for all extreme climate conditions and other types destructive events. Lithuania needs to request at the highest international levels for an assessment by an independent international team of all safety provisions that Baltiiskaya and Ostroviec NPPs (Fig. 4) will be equipped with. Self certifications by the building and operating countries of the NPPs are just not sufficient when the lives of the entire nation and its habitat are involved. Furthermore, inasmuch as a nuclear disaster can have devastating effects on neighboring countries, the reactor owning country should establish financial insurance deposits at the World Bank or a similar institution to cover losses, should they occur.
In the writer’s view, which is also supported by independent academic studies, the government in general and ENMIN in particular is over relying on studies produced by foreign consultants while disregarding analysis and recommendations of qualified experts in the country. It is known, that in many instances external consultants tend to produce studies supporting the purchaser’s desired outcome, knowing that a satisfied customer, would give them a much better chance to win subsequent studies. According to the ENMIN, the consultant projected a bright future and very profitable financial outcome for Lithuania if the new NPP was to be built. It noted that after a dozen years, the new NPP would be like a “hen laying golden eggs”. Unsaid was that Lithuania would have to wait for the first golden egg at least thirty years and hoping that the hen does not die in the meantime because of either old age or in the face of advancement of new technologies and other developments. Indeed, when all costs are taken into account, such as repayment of the NPP construction loan and interest, holding in ready reserve conventional power plant(s), storage of spent nuclear fuel, internal and external safety provisions, etc, very different conclusions could be reached. Furthermore. it is known, but not well publicized, that none of the world’s existing nuclear power plants can survive without financial support of their respective governments. While large-scale nuclear power plant might be the most logical and cost-effective solution for energy resources poor Lithuania to assure energy independence, such comparative studies have not been made available to the public. It is the author’s professional and considered opinion that Lithuania should evaluate and make public all available options for its citizens to decide the alternatives they would be willing to support rather than being bulldozed into a financial quagmire by a bureaucratic decree.
Although it is difficult to pin down precisely the causes for creating the current energy dilemma, one can observe that Lithuania’s foreign and domestic policy imbalances have greatly contributed to the country’s self-inflicted isolation and energy crisis. It creates the impression that diatribe on these issues by political parties, failure to recognize the critical energy situation by the Parliament, quest for quick personal gains, lack of attention to potential partners’ energy concerns, insufficient attention to international political and energy interests and associated manipulations, and failure to conclude with their partners binding agreements, pushed Lithuania’s energy independence in the foreseeable future into serious doubt.
Energy availability in the future requires long term (30-50 years) strategic planning that is independent and isolated from interference by political parties or special interest groups who are primarily interested in short term gains. Currently proposed solutions by ENMIN appear to be mostly tactical decisions to initiate activities that would address short term problems, but not to resolve complex and long term issues. It is of utmost importance for vitally important long term energy problems to engage all parties interested in finding solutions in order to assure the object, on which consensus has been reached, the best possible environment to survive, as Russia is doing for the Kaliningrad and Belarusian NPPs.
For success, the decision maker needs to have a thorough and in depth understanding of all technical issues, because knowledge of just business or financial management is not sufficient to address all of the complexities and intricacies of the energy systems. Diminution of views of energy experts in important energy decisions and in many instances their replacement during reorganizations by individuals based on political party or family connections, threatens to reduce the competence needed to manage technical issues at many power generating and distribution facilities. Furthermore, management and distribution of financial resources without thorough appreciation of their effects either on the system or the various subsystems, exposes their functioning to severe disruptions and possible total collapse.
Shortly after closing the INPP first reactor, Lithuania had a relatively easy opportunity to resolve the energy problem in its favor. However, the delay for nearly four years to come to a decision helped Russia to turn around an unfavorable energy situation to its advantage. Current attempts to help remedy this unfortunate course of events are commendable, but might be too late, and most likely will lead to serious long term energy and economic consequences. Lithuania’s people are now burdened by very high electricity prices and will have to face not only their further escalation, but also uncertainty in continuous supply of electricity and natural gas unless alternative energy measures are vigorously pursued and implemented. If the nuclear option is to be selected, consensus by the people is essential, and Latvian and Estonian participation need to be assured by documented agreements. Assistance of EU would be of great value in persuading all of the neighbors that the new NPP would be a win-win situation for all in the long run. To overcome the small market dilemma of the Baltic countries and to maximize their power generation efficiency, it would be of substantial benefit to create a joint Baltic Energy Authority, similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Its responsibility, under an oversight committee of the tri-country governments, would be to negotiate the purchase and import of gas and electricity, provide advice on most efficient power generating methods and equipment for future needs, raise the needed financing, and to facilitate planning and organizing the construction of power plants at the regional level, including coordination of their operations and power distribution. Such joint activity would motivate the EU to support the quest of the Baltic States for energy security and reduce, if not nullify, their current vulnerability to Russia’s energy political power plays and price manipulations.
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