France backs Lithuania's nuclear energy drive

14th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

VILNIUS, Jan 14 (AFP) - France supports Lithuania's drive to continue using nuclear energy and is ready to offer the Baltic state help in building a new nuclear reactor after the Chernobyl-style Ignalina power plant is closed, a French government official said here Friday.

VILNIUS, Jan 14 (AFP) - France supports Lithuania's drive to continue using nuclear energy and is ready to offer the Baltic state help in building a new nuclear reactor after the Chernobyl-style Ignalina power plant is closed, a French government official said here Friday.

"We welcome the attempts of the Lithuanian government to continue using nuclear energy," Dominique Maillard, head of the energy and raw materials department of the French economy and finance ministry, said at a press briefing.

"French companies are ready to offer their help and expertise if the Lithuanian government decides to build a new reactor," Maillard added.

Lithuania halted the first of two reactors at Ignalina on December 31 in line with a pledge to the EU made during membership talks. The Baltic country, which joined the EU on May 1 last year, also pledged to close the Ignalina nuclear power plant by 2010.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said this week that the country will seek international assistance and expertise to build a new nuclear facility.

The Ignalina plant, which supplied more than 70 percent of all energy consumed in the Baltic state, operated two RBMK reactors - the same type as those used at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear plant, which exploded in 1986 in the world's worst civil nuclear disaster.

The EU has promised to finance the closure of the Ignalina plant, estimated at between EUR 2-3 billion euros (USD 2.5-3.75 billion) over 30 years. More than EUR 200 million have already been allocated to prepare decomissioning the first unit.

Bernard Esteve, vice-president of France's Framatome, which designs and builds nuclear power plants, said at the briefing that Lithuania could use Finland's experience and establish a consortium of private companies to finance the construction of the new reactor, estimated at between EUR 1.5 to 2 billion.

Esteve estimated it would take eight to nine years from when a political decision is taken for the new reactor to be built.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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