A discussion on building a nuclear power plant (NPP) by Latvia or even by the three Baltic states together has gained momentum with the rise in electricity prices and geopolitical tensions, a Latvian daily has reported. The newspaper recalls the Visaginas NPP project, which collapsed due to the Baltic public's fear of nuclear power and the three countries' disagreements. Diena recommends taking into account the urgency of energy independence, as well as fierce internal competition in the energy sector and the public opposition to at least one wind farm project, which, with the development of technology, is reviving the idea of building an NPP. The following is the text of an article by Magda Riekstina entitled "New or old idea?" published in the centrist daily Diena on 25 January:
Rising electricity prices and geopolitical tensions are fuelling the re-emergence of phrases such as "We need energy independence!" and "Latvia must build its own nuclear power plant (NPP) alone or for all the Baltic states together!". There are also quite extravagant opinions - the increase in electricity prices is allegedly explained by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is claimed that so far electricity has been so cheap that society has become accustomed to using it irrationally. In fact, of course, the pandemic is not directly responsible for the rise in electricity prices, and even before Covid-19 was not even mentioned, the price of electricity was volatile.
Moreover, it should be remembered that the idea of building a nuclear power plant in the Baltics is not new. In 2006, the prime ministers of the three Baltic states agreed to prepare for the construction of the Visaginas NPP in Lithuania, setting 2015 as the possible completion date. In 2012, the headlines covered "Visaginas NPP stuck in Lithuanian domestic politics" and "Damocles' sword over Visaginas" (62.7% of Lithuanians voted against the construction of the Visaginas NPP). There were other messages of a similar nature. However, in November 2013, energy experts explained in Diena [daily] that "the Baltics may need their own NPP". In the following years, the name of the Visaginas NPP still appeared in the media, but mainly in connection with the discussions that took place in Lithuania, and gradually the term "Visaginas NPP" became a symbol that not all joint projects of the Baltic states are being implemented.
Of course, over time, conditions in the energy sector are changing, technology is evolving and the Baltic society's fears about nuclear energy are diminishing, as a generation has grown up for whom the 1986 Chernobyl disaster seems like ancient history. Thus, the idea of NPP construction in one of the Baltic states in the coming years may not be utopian, but real. However, the experience associated with the Visaginas NPP also shows that one should not naively hope that such grandiose projects will be implemented quickly and without difficulties. Moreover, the only member state of the European Union with experience in setting up an ambitious nuclear industry is France.
It should also be borne in mind that the energy sector is known for intense internal competition. The Latvian Wind Energy Association recently issued a statement highlighting the shortcomings of NPPs and praising wind energy. However, at least one wind farm project in our country has met with resistance from the population, and energy professionals have acknowledged that wind energy alone cannot be relied upon. Each type of energy has its own positive and negative features.
This means that we are in for interesting debates on energy independence.
Source: Diena in Latvian 25 Jan 22