Lithuania had one nuclear power plant with two units at Ignalina. Both units were Soviet-designed RBMK 1500 reactors and subject to thorough safety examinations by international experts, including one assessment project funded by the Nuclear Safety Account (NSA).
As part of the EU accession process, Lithuania agreed to the early closure of its RBMK 1500 reactors: Ignalina unit 1 was shut down at the end of 2004 and unit 2 at the end of 2009.
According to findings of the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association, the main risk of accident was associated with generic design flaws of the RBMK reactors and the absence of a confinement. This deficiency could not technically be eliminated nor could the plant be brought to a safety level comparable to that of western European reactors.
To assist Lithuania with the decommissioning process, the European Commission together with 14 European governments set up the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund (IIDSF) at the EBRD in 2001.
The framework agreement of 5 April 2001, signed between the Republic of Lithuania and the EBRD and ratified by the Lithuanian Parliament, created the legal basis for the operation of the IIDSF in Lithuania. The fund became operational in the autumn of 2001. As of 2018 it has received more than €750 million largely from the European Commission as well as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Grant financing was allocated for:
- Support of the decommissioning works at Ignalina’s units 1 and 2 through financing and co-financing the construction of facilities for storage and treatment of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste and other decommissioning related projects.
- Assistance in the transformation of the energy sector after the closure of units 1 and 2.
The EBRD manages the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund to help Lithuania decommission the nuclear power plant and rebuild its energy sector.
Construction works at the interim spent fuel storage facility and the solid radioactive waste management facility are complete. Both facilities are undergoing final industrial trials fully operational. The spent fuel storage facility started its operation in September 2016 and the radioactive waste facility followed in 2017. Safe storage of spent fuel from the operation of the nuclear power plant and the ability to safely handle and store radioactive waste produced during dismantling works are key prerequisites for the decommissioning activities.
IIDSF has also financed new boiler stations for the Ignalina plant and the nearby town of Visaginas as a substitute source of steam and heat from Ignalina. The stations along with the rehabilitation and extension of district heat-and-steam pipe works were completed in parallel with a new gas pipeline to Visaginas and the Ignalina site.
In addition to these two major projects which cost €400 million, the IIDSF has financed safety upgrades of fuel handling cranes and a number of decommissioning and dismantling projects, and has helped with the preparation of the final decommissioning plan and safety analysis report for Ignalina units 1 and 2, including an environmental impact assessment and documentation for the final shut down.
Energy sector projects
In accordance with the Lithuanian National Energy Strategy and the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plant (BEMIP), the IIDSF has financed energy sector development projects which are an integral part of the closure of the Ignalina plant. The objective was to increase energy supply and security at minimum cost.
Key completed IIDSF-co-financed energy sector projects include updates of a least-cost plan for the Lithuanian power and gas sectors, the flue gas desulphurization facilities for environmental upgrade of the Lithuanian Power Plant (LPP), the construction of a new state of the art 455 MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant and the development of the power interconnection project between Lithuania and Poland.
As of 2015 the IIDSF finances no new energy sector projects.