It seems I got so excited about the view of the fireworks on New Year's Eve that I never posted this.
Tonight at midnight, Ignalina NNP finally closes.
From January 1998 to March 2003 (long before I started blogging), my work in Lithuania was mainly about persuading Lithuania to lose its self-appointed title as the country with most nuclear power and manage the energy sector without it.
Ignalina NPP has two Chernobyl type reactors, which Lithuania agreed to shut down at a later date, in exchange with financial help for safety improvements intended to be temporary. During the period of my work, the government continually wriggled out of the deadlines. Finally it made a bargain where the EU could pay for most of the decommissioning, and Lithuania would commit to definite dates for closure of each unit (2005 and 2009).
Without this bargain, Lithuania would not have been able to join the EU.
The story of the negotiations is one which will have to wait for another day.
2005 came and the first unit went. Nobody missed this unit much, as it was not needed, since electrical demand had shrunk after independence and Belarus had stopped paying for its imports of electricity. Nevertheless, still there were suggestions that the second unit should not be closed until it had been replaced by a new safe nuclear power plant.
Now Ignalina NPP is really going to close and there are few that will mourn it, even less people will panic about the lights going out, and nobody will be surprised that the price of electricity will go up, even if it won't double, like all the scare stories.
But has the government taken the intervening time to prepare for closure? Not really. They have not succeeded to get either funding or an agreement with neighbouring countries to share the cost of a new plant. Consequently, electricity will come from a rehabilitated old gas fired power station, until someone does make a sensible decision.
The power sector experts in Lithuania do not generally favour this solution, but since nuclear stations cost a lot, and take a lot of time to build, there's not much choice.
Traditionally the experts have worried about whether Russia will cut the gas off, if gas-fired electricity generation is chosen. They should now not be worrying IF the gas will be cut off, but WHEN it will not be exported from Russia. Russia's gas production is falling, and little new production is anticipated, so it simply doesn't have enough gas production to meet all its future domestic consumption and its contracted exports to Europe especially when all the new pipelines it wants are added. Hence why it is making offers that the 'stans' can't refuse to take the gas off their hands and to control the routes by which it reaches Europe.
So Lithuania, look sharp before the lights go out next time.
However, it's not long since the Economist led with the same head line for Britain: "how long till the lights go out.
With very similar reasons.