Lithuania chooses Hitachi-GE for nuclear project

AP News
Posted: Jul 14, 2011 1:18 PM
Lithuania chooses Hitachi-GE for nuclear project

Lithuania on Thursday chose the U.S.-Japanese consortium Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy as the strategic investor in a nuclear power plant in Lithuania.

Hitachi and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy beat out the Japanese-owned Westinghouse in the bidding, and Deputy Energy Minister Romas Svedas said negotiations on price and contractual details would begin immediately.

He said the Hitachi-GE proposal won since it produces an advanced boiling water reactor that is widely regarded as the safest technology.

The minister also said Lithuanian negotiators would try to persuade Hitachi-GE to take a 51 percent stake in the project. The remaining 49 percent would be divided among Lithuania and potential investors from Estonia, Latvia and Poland.

"This project includes five partners who will invest their funds," Svedas said. "It is based on commercial principles and will have to be highly competitive in future electricity markets."

He said if the talks failed, Lithuania could launch discussions with Westinghouse, which is majority-owned by Toshiba Corp.

The decision represents a major victory for Hitachi-GE, which has lost out recently to competitors such as France's Areva, Korea's Kepco, Russia's Atomstroiexsport, and Westinghouse.

Kepco pulled its bid to build a nuclear plant in Lithuania in the last minute for unspecified reasons last year.

Lithuania, which has a population of 3 million, wants to replace its Soviet-era, Chernobyl-style nuclear plant that was shut down in 2009 due to safety concerns.

Until 2009, Lithuania was the world's second-most nuclear energy-dependent nation in the world after France, when it was forced to close down a plant as part of a pre-accession agreement with the European Union, which considered the Soviet facility dangerous.

However, in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, polls suggest that Lithuanians, who fear Russia's energy dominance in the region, are increasingly skeptical about the safety of nuclear power.

(This version CORRECTS name of company throughout to Hitachi-GE.)