Lithuania could begin shutting down its Ignalina nuclear power plant in 2005, a government official claimed. However the complete decommissioning of the power station is likely to take 20 years.

A working party has been looking at the possible closure of the station and it intends to put a timetable to the government and to parliament. The working party has indicated that it believes that the first unit of the plant could be taken out of service in 2005, or 2007. The Soviet-build nuclear station is based on two RBMK reactors, similar to those that were installed at the Chernobyl power station in Ukraine.

Lithuania is keen to join the European Union, but Ignalina represents a stumbling block in the path of its ambitions. The EU is pressing for a firm closure date. Lithuania claimsthat it does not have the resources to complete the task alone.

The cost of decommissioning Ignalina has been estimated at $3.25-$3.75 billion. To complete it, Lithuania is seeking both financial and technical assistance from other nations.