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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 17:07 GMT
Lithuania to close nuclear plant
By Steven Paulikas
BBC News, Vilnius

Ignalina nuclear reactor
Campaigners are worried about the safety of Ignalina
The Lithuanian government has decided to close one of two reactors at its controversial Chernobyl-style nuclear power plant.

The government said it would close the first reactor at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant by 31 December.

Some say the plant, a key source of electricity in the region, is a major disaster waiting to happen.

The decision makes good on a promise Lithuania made when it originally negotiated to join the European Union.

Lithuania claims the plant, which supplies almost 80% of the country's electricity, is safe.

But European experts warn it could cause widespread destruction in case of an accident, because of its Soviet-era design.

Tensions heated up earlier this month when Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas hinted at keeping the first reactor running well into next year.

His announcement came despite a promise of almost two billion euros (1.3bn) from the EU, to help Lithuania close the plant. A second reactor is scheduled for decommissioning in 2009.

In the meantime, Lithuania and its neighbours will have to find an alternative source of electricity in this highly nuclear-dependent region.

Lithuania facing nuclear fall out
16 Apr 04 |  Business
Country profile: Lithuania
24 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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