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Size: 25,173 square miles (slightly larger than West Virginia)
Electricity Production: 12.3 billion kWh (1996 est.)
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Lithuania has relied increasingly on nuclear energy for electricity generation. Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant has the world's two largest operating nuclear reactors -- RBMK-1500s that together can produce approximately 2,760 MW of electricity. In 1997, the Ignalina plant provided 82 percent of Lithuania's electricity. The plant has the capacity to produce even more power, but safety concerns and public reaction to the Chornobyl accident prompted authorities to limit plant operation to lower power levels.
Although Lithuania's neighbors -- Latvia, Belarus, and the Kaliningrad region of Russia -- have historically relied on the power from the Ignalina plant, their demand for power has diminished since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Belarus now has difficulty paying for power from Ignalina. Moreover, Lithuania must compete for some sectors of its former export market with Russia's Smolensk plant.
Lithuania's Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) has three mandates:
In 1993, the committee recommended price increases for electricity in Lithuania to pay for repairs and upgrade of the Ignalina plant. They also recommended review of several safety- related issues and the appointment of a committee to examine management decisions at Ignalina.
The Ignalina plant purchases nuclear fuel from Russia, which has a limited market for RBMK fuel. Although the Russian government has asked for hard currency in exchange for the fuel, it has settled for payment by electricity from Ignalina.
Because reprocessing of RBMK fuel is too costly and storage space is limited, Lithuania has entered new agreements with Sweden and Germany for waste management:
Meanwhile, Lithuania is considering a search for a permanent site for spent fuel disposal.
Source: Source Book , 4th ed., Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996; Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plant Profiles , U.S. Department of Energy, 1999
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