It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Lithuania's Nuclear Dilemma
Most articles in the European press focus on a single point: the fact that the reactors at Ignalina are of the RBMK-2 model, the same ones that caused the catastrophe in Ukraine over a decade ago. Fears over the reactor's safety have created a stumbling block on Lithuania's road to EU membership. But what would Ignalina's early shut down mean for Lithuania?
First of all, it is not as simple as turning off the switch. As Ignalina generates over 85 percent of the electricity produced in Lithuania, the first question to surface would be where to find new sources of electricity. Unlike Estonia with its plentiful oil shale supply, Lithuania is not blessed with natural energy resources; a shutdown of Ignalina would be tantamount to full dependency on a foreign supplier, which, for a developing country, could prove disastrous.
Lithuania has already experimented with the import of heavy fuel oils and even the environmentally disastrous Orimulsion for use in its other power plants, but further reliance on such imported fuels could prove to be financially and environmentally catastrophic in the long term.
In the Belly of the Beast
To the horror of many safety experts, there are no containment shells around Ignalina’s two reactors, which, at 1,500 megawatts a piece, are even more powerful than Chernobyl’s. Many safety features are also still manual, and prone to going haywire.
The big picture looks bad enough. But up close and personal, this plant, which employs over 5,000 workers, looks even worse. In the hallway just outside the core of reactor No. 1, the light-blue paint is peeling off corridor walls. Inside the reactor itself, lots of important-looking pieces of metal are rusty and bent. Thousands of wires twisted across the reactor floor are caked in dust.
Plant Director Viktor Shevaldin oozes confidence. "We don’t need a containment building because our water piping system is adequate"
Shevaldin speaks like a mathematician who has absolute faith that he hasn’t left any variables out of a very complex equation. No doubts. No problems.
But there have been glitches over the past year, some of them potentially serious. A one-centimeter crack in the reactor cooling system almost caused a major accident last October. And in March, an unknown variable—a crow—landed on electrical lines near the plant, setting off alarms and forcing the plant to shut down briefly.
CHERNOBYL NO MORE
In 1987-88, there were 80 fires and accidents, 3 of which were serious. In 1994, there were 7 unplanned shutdowns and several threats of nuclear terrorism. Ignalina, the largest RBMK reactors, has unfit automatic control, shutdown, safety, and containment systems. There were 57 accidents between January and mid-November of '95 Spent fuel has never been moved from the plant's storage pools.
These oversized Chernobyl-style reactors are suffering from acceleratred embrittlement of their fuel channels, and thus an increased likelihood of catastrophic failure. During Ignalina’s construction period, corruption, stealing, and drunkenness was common in the workforce, so construction quality is of a low level. The plant has been built on a geologic fault between two moving tectonic plates.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said the closure of the country’s only nuclear plant in two days is “nothing catastrophic,” citing estimates that the economy may return to growth even after the shutdown.
Closure of Ignalina may add as much as 0.8 percentage point to consumer prices next year
31 December 2009
One hour before midnight, staff at the Ignalina plant will flick the switches, shutting down the only nuclear reactor in the Baltic states.