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Lithuania

Overview

Last Updated: June, 2017

Lithuania does not possess or produce nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, or ballistic missiles.

Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, a proclamation Moscow did not recognize until September 1991. Vilnius is a member of NATO and the EU, as well as a number of treaties and organizations pertaining to WMD nonproliferation. Lithuania has one nuclear power plant, Ignalina, which is currently being dismantled, and cancelled its plans to build a new nuclear power plant, Visaginas. [1]

Nuclear

Lithuania is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), has an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Lithuania has only one nuclear facility, which is no longer operational. The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant consisted of two Chernobyl-type 1,500 megawatt RBMK reactors. [2] Unit 1 at Ignalina came online in December 1983 and Unit 2 came online in August 1987, while construction of Unit 3 was halted after the Chernobyl disaster. [3] As a condition of Lithuania's European Union accession agreement, Vilnius shut down Unit 1 on December 31, 2004 and Unit 2 on December 31, 2009. [4] In July 2000, Lithuania had rejected a Russian offer to lease or buy the plant. [5] The Ignalina plant provided up to 80% of Lithuania's electricity generation and housed the last RBMK reactor in operation outside of Russia. [6]

Since the shutdown of Unit 2 in 2009, work at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has focused on dismantlement. Over 38,000 tons of equipment has been dismantled so far, representing approximately 25.6% of the total work required. [7] It is hoped that the decommissioning of the plant will be completed by 2038, with the reactors fully dismantled by 2035. [8] The European Union, member states of the European Commission, several international Ignalina decommissioning-specific funds, and the Lithuanian government have been the primary funders of this project. [9] Sales of decommissioned materials provide an additional source of funding for the project. [10]

In addition, construction continues at Ignalina on storage facilities for spent fuel. Since the power plant first went online, spent fuel has been stored in interim storage ponds near the reactor. [11] When the facility was constructed, it was anticipated that the spent fuel could be returned to Russia – a system that was never implemented as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. [12] Instead, interim facilities were constructed that would be able to hold the spent fuel safely for up to 50 years. [13] These facilities, however, are unable to hold the volume of spent fuel necessary. [14] As a result, contracts were signed in 2005 for both a new Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (B1-ISFSF) and a new Solid Waste Management and Storage Facilities (B234-SWMSF) as part of the broader dismantlement effort at Ignalina. [15] The Solid Waste Management and Storage Facilities fell significantly behind schedule, but entered the preliminary commissioning process in August 2015. [16] The Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility entered service on October 14, 2016, when the first spent fuel cask was placed in storage. [17]

On October 18, 1991 the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) established the Lithuanian State Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) to handle safety issues related to the Ignalina plant. [18] The Lithuanian government approved its status as a regulatory and inspection agency under the Ministry of Energy on October 21, 1992. [19] In response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, in 2011 the European Council called for the review of all European power plants. [20] Accordingly, VATESI conducted a stress test on Ignalina and the country's two spent fuel storage facilities and released its findings in 2011. [21] On March 24, 2015, VATESI approved an updated Plan of Strengthening Nuclear Safety in Lithuania, based on a report submitted to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group in 2014, and including lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi incident in Japan. The plan is supposed to be implemented in 2017. [22] In April 2016, Lithuania hosted a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess possible risks associated with decommissioning the plant. The IAEA expressed interest in the work, given the future need for experience with decommissioning RBMK reactors. [23]

Lithuania has also worked to upgrade its export control system as a condition for joining the EU. In 2004, Lithuania joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group and became a part of the International System of Non-proliferation Export Control Regimes when it joined the EU. [24] The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has also assisted Lithuania in developing its export control system. [25] On February 22, 2011, Lithuania and the NNSA announced the signing of an Implementation Agreement on Cooperation in Preventing Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material as part of NNSA's Second Line of Defense (SLD) program. [26]

In February 2006, the leaders of the three Baltic States announced their support for an initiative to build a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania. The utilities of EstoniaLatvia, and Lithuania released a joint feasibility study in October 2006 calling for the construction of at least one new nuclear reactor of between 800 and 1,600 MW in Lithuania to replace Ignalina-2 and reduce the Baltic States' dependence on imported Russian electricity and natural gas. [27] In June 2012 the European Commission rendered a favorable opinion on the proposal, but four months later, in a referendum conducted alongside Lithuanian parliamentary elections, over 60% of participants voted against the construction of a new nuclear power plant. [28] Nonetheless, the Lithuanian government pushed forward with the project, and on July 30, 2014 signed a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese nuclear company Hitachi to establish a Project Company to operate the advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) power plant near the town of Visaginas. [29] Following this, the project stalled, and on November 24, 2016, the Lithuanian Ministry of Energy suggested that the Visaginas project be frozen until it becomes either cost effective or necessary for energy security. [30] Three months later, in a February 2017 interview, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis signaled the end of the Visaginas project, stating "We no longer consider this project as economically viable. It would not be safe, and therefore it is no longer on our agenda." [31]

Lithuania has also expressed concern regarding the construction of a nuclear power plant near Astravets, Belarus, less than 25 km from the Lithuanian border. The plant, with two VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors (PWRs), is being financed and built primarily by the Russian government. [32] Lithuania first raised concerns in 2011 that Belarus had failed to meet its obligations under the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (also known as the Espoo Convention). [33] Belarus has reportedly presented Lithuania with several opportunities for bilateral consultations, but has resisted attempts to "establish an expert body." [34] The Lithuanian government has continued to voiced concerns regarding actual and rumored accidents at the construction site, and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has stated that his government intends to pass legislation which would forbid Lithuania from buying electricity generated at the plant and all other "unsafe power plants." [35]

Biological

Lithuania acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in October 1998 and joined the Australia Group in June 2004. There is no evidence to suggest that Vilnius possesses or is developing biological weapons.

Chemical

Lithuania is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and joined the Australia Group in June 2004. There is no evidence that Vilnius possesses or seeks to develop chemical weapons.

Missile

Lithuania does not possess or produce ballistic missiles and is a signatory to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). In August 2003, Vilnius submitted an application for membership to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Sources:
[1] "Technical Data," State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.iae.lt; "About the Project," Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.vae.lt.
[2] "Technical Data," State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.iae.lt.
[3] "History," State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, 2011, www.iae.lt.
[4] "About us," State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, 2011, www.iae.lt.
[5] "Litva otklonyayet predlozheniye Rossii ne speshit s zakrytiyem Ignalinskoy Atomnoy Elektrostantsii," Interfax, No. 4, June 20, 2000.
[6] "Lithuania shuts its only nuclear power station," BBC News, December 31, 2009, www.bbc.co.uk; Nerijus Adomaitis, "Lithuania to shut Soviet-era nuclear plant," Reuters, December 31, 2009, www.uk.reuters.com.
[7] Natalija Survila-Glebova, "About 38 thousand tons of equipment were dismantled at Ignalina NPP," Press Release, State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, January 9, 2017, www.iae.lt.
[8] "Approximately 22 Thousand Tons of Equipment was Dismantled in Ignalina NPP," Press Release, State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, February 18, 2015, www.iae.lt.
[9] "Spain Ambassador to Lithuania: 'Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning is Much More Complicated Process than the Construction of It,'" Press Release, State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, April 30, 2015, www.iae.lt; "Financing," State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.iae.lt.
[10] Natalija Survila-Glebova, "The Ignalina NPP additionally has earned almost 2 Million Euro for Decommissioning Activity," Press Release, State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, January 16, 2017, www.iae.lt.
[11] "Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage," Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.vae.lt.
[12] V.V. Penkov and R. Diersch, "The Dry Spent RBMK Fuel Cask Storage Site at the Ignalina NPP in Lithuania," Proceedings from the International Symposium on Storage of Spent Fuel from Power Reactors (Vienna: IAEA, 1999), pp. 103-109, www.iaea.org.
[13] V.V. Penkov and R. Diersch, "The Dry Spent RBMK Fuel Cask Storage Site at the Ignalina NPP in Lithuania," Proceedings from the International Symposium on Storage of Spent Fuel from Power Reactors (Vienna: IAEA, 1999), pp. 103-109, www.iaea.org.
[14] Burkhard Koenning, Jose Fernandez Puga, Johannes Rausch, Ronny Ziehm, "Nuclear Waste Management Treatment Facility and Spent Fuel Storage at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant - 9192," Proceedings from Waste Management Symposium 2009: Waste Management for the Nuclear Renaissance (Tucson: Waste Management Symposia, Inc, 2009), pp. 3986, www.wmsym.org.
[15] Burkhard Koenning, Jose Fernandez Puga, Johannes Rausch, Ronny Ziehm, "Nuclear Waste Management Treatment Facility and Spent Fuel Storage at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant - 9192," Proceedings from Waste Management Symposium 2009: Waste Management for the Nuclear Renaissance (Tucson: Waste Management Symposia, Inc, 2009), pp. 3986, www.wmsym.org.
[16] "Ignalina NPP and Nukem Technologies reach settlement on disputed B234 decom contract," Nuclear Engineering International, January 7, 2014, www.neimagazine.com.
[17] "Interim storage facility in Ignalina inaugurated – the first cask is placed for storage," NUKEM Technologies, October 18, 2016, www.nukemtechnologies.com.
[18] Jurgis Bilemas and Detlev Reichenbach, Internationale Zeitschrift fuer Kernenenergie, atw 40. Jg., August-September 1995, pp. 530-531.
[19] Diana Medliene, ed., Valstybine Atomines Energetikos Saugos Inspekcija (1991-1996) (Vilnius: VATESI), 1996, pp. 4 and 8.
[20] State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate, "National Progress Report on 'Stress Tests,'" Republic of Lithuania, September 15, 2011, www.vatesi.lt.
[21] State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate, "National Progress Report on 'Stress Tests,'" Republic of Lithuania, September 15, 2011, www.vatesi.lt.
[22] "Stress tests," Article, Lithuanian State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI), February 1, 2016, www.vatesi.lt.
[23] Jeff Donovan, "IAEA Advises Lithuania on Project Risks of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning," April 8th, 2016, www.iaea.org.
[24] "Nuclear Power Safety in Lithuania: Activity Report 2014," State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI), 2015, www.vatesi.lt.
[25] Richard Talley, "Export Control Training Seminars in Latvia, Georgia, and Lithuania," NIS Export Control Observer, October 2004, www.nonproliferation.org; "Shvetsiya prodolzhit okazaniye pomoschi Litve v ukreplenii bezopasnosti Ignalinskoy AES," Interfax, January 27, 2000.
[26] "U.S., Lithuania Expand Cooperation to Prevent Nuclear Smuggling," National Nuclear Security Administration, February 22, 2011, www.nnsa.energy.gov.
[27] "Baltic utilities say new nuclear is best new capacity choice," Nucleonics Week, October 26, 2006; "About the Project," Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, accessed June 24, 2015, www.vae.lt.
[28] "Lithuanian nuclear power plant OKed, with conditions," Euractiv, June 30, 2012, www.euractiv.com; "Lithuania swings left, abandons nuclear plant project," Euractiv, October 15, 2012, www.euractiv.com; Christian Lowe and Andrius Sytas, "Lithuanians send nuclear plant back to drawing board," Reuters, October 15, 2012, www.reuters.com.
[29] "Government of Lithuania came to an agreement with Hitachi to discuss for establishment of the Project Company for Nuclear Power Project," Hitachi Group, July 30, 2014, www.hitachi.com.
[30] Republic of Lithuania, Ministry of Energy, "Recommended Key Guidelines of the National Energy Strategy of Lithuania," November 24, 2016, p. 3.
[31] Georgi Gotev, "Lithuanian PM: Belarus nuclear plant is a threat to our country," Euractiv, February 15, 2017, www.euractiv.com.
[32] "Minsk to Report to EC After Stress Tests at Belarusian NPP – Energy Ministry," Sputnik News, February 24, 2017, www.sputniknews.com; Galina Dzesiatava, "Incident at Belarus Nuclear Power Plant Raises Safety Concerns," Belarus Digest, August 3, 2016, www.belarusdigest.com
[33] "Lithuania: Belarusian NPP environmental impact assessment lacks analysis, quality," The Baltic Course, September 30, 2013, www.baltic-course.com.
[34] Igar Gubarevich, "Astraviec Nuclear Plant: A Poison for Belarus-Lithuania Relations?" Belarus Digest, May 25, 2016, www.belarusdigest.com.
[35] Georgi Gotev, "Lithuanian PM: Belarus nuclear plant is a threat to our country," Euractiv, February 15, 2017, www.euractiv.com.

Get the Facts on Lithuania
  • Plans to build a 3,400 MW nuclear power reactor by 2020
  • Works with the U.S. Second Line of Defense program to prevent nuclear trafficking
  • Acceded to the BWC in 1998 and became a member of the Australia Group in 2004

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.