asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether, in the light of the use by European Union member states of Russian energy supplies and the situation regarding energy security, they will support in the Council of Ministers the efforts of the Government of Lithuania to extend the operational life of the Ignalina nuclear plant. [HL5371]
We have been informed of the concerns of the Government of Lithuania, which have highlighted Lithuania's dependence on Russia for gas and electricity, the lack of interconnection between the Baltic states and the rest of the EU, plus the consequences of shutting down the remaining reactor at Ignalina given the long-term nature of Lithuania's intentions for new nuclear build and projects to increase electricity and gas links with neighbouring countries.
We recognise the improvements that have been made to nuclear safety at Ignalina to allow short-term continued electricity generation until 2009, financed through the EU TACIS programme and the UK's Nuclear Safety Programme. The UK also contributed to the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund—managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—and delivered a separate UK programme to address the social and economic consequences of nuclear power plant closure. While the agreed timing of the closure of the two reactors at Ignalina was part of a package of pre-EU accession treaty considerations agreed by the Government of Lithuania, we support the view of the EU Commission and other member states that Lithuania should stand by this obligation, freely entered into. However, we also believe that the EU should look sympathetically at the options for mitigating the short-term consequences of closure. The energy security concerns of Lithuania and the other Baltic states would be most appropriately addressed by a combination of an increased focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency and by increased interconnection with the rest of the European Union. We anticipate that the European Commission's upcoming second strategic EU energy review will include proposals on how to help to address the energy isolation of Lithuania and the other Baltic states.