Germany backs Baltic nuclear power plant: Merkel
Fresh from her controversial announcement that Germany aims to postpone abandoning nuclear energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday threw Berlin's weight behind a planned four-nation plant in Lithuania.
"We'll do everything we can to ensure that this construction gets backing," Merkel told reporters during a visit to the Baltic state, saying German authorities could help bring potential investors on board.
She did not elaborate.
At the end of 2009, Lithuania shut down its sole nuclear power plant, a Soviet-era facility which provided the bulk of its electricity.
The plant was similar to the one that exploded at Chernobyl in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986, the world's worst nuclear accident, and was shut under the terms of Lithuania's 2004 admission to the European Union.
Lithuania had tried and failed to convince Brussels to let it keep the plant open until a replacement being built along with neighbours Latvia, Estonia and Poland is ready.
Progress in the project has been sluggish, however, and the plant is not now expected to be online until 2020.
"We would like very much for Germany to have a real interest, maybe even participate in the construction. But at least political support, and European support, means a lot," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said alongside Merkel.
"We would expect European investments very much, but the very fact that the construction of the new power plant receives political support is a positive step for Lithuania and the whole region in their attempt to guarantee power supply independently," Grybauskaite said.
Earlier Monday, the German government announced it would extend the life of its 17 nuclear reactors by 12 years on average.
Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder had decided to mothball the reactors by around 2020, and opposition parties and environmentalists have vowed to fight the planned extension.
© 2010 AFP