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The Baltic nuclear power plant project in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a highly controversial project opposed by the local population, has been abandoned by the Russian authorities. Friends of the Earth France, whose campaign against Société Générale's financial support for this project contributed to its suspension, welcome this news, although they remain vigilant about the involvement of French banks in the nuclear sector .
After months of uncertainty about its future, the nuclear power plant project in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, has now been abandoned by the Russian government. Challenged from the beginning by the local population, the project has been the subject of an international mobilization against Société Générale last year by Friends of the Earth.
The proposed nuclear plant, backed by the Russian state-owned corporation Rosatom, raised many issues: a sloppy environmental impact assessment, a lack of emergency plans or decommissioning plans, a poor radioactive waste management program, corruption scandals and violations of the rights of local people. Finally, as well as being opposed by the population of Kaliningrad itself, the project was opposed by the very neighboring countries which were intended to be the plant's customers.
"This project has gradually lost support from the Russian authorities and was not even mentioned during their discussions on the future of energy in the region in early April. Rosatom may continue its deceptive communication and try to make believe that the project is still on the agenda, but the company will not convince, neither here nor abroad. Nuclear power is too costly, too risky and the Russian and neighboring populations are clearly opposed to it," said Vladimir Slivyak of the Russian association Ecodefense.
"The abandonment of this nuclear project, despite the wishes of the energy giant Rosatom, should send a strong signal to Société Générale. The bank was structuring the export finance for the project's Alstom turbines while BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole informed Friends of the Earth France they would not participate. However, it must not be forgotten that the French banks are among the main funders of the nuclear industry worldwide" adds Lucie Pinson, private finance campaigner for Friends of the Earth France.
"This project also exposes the role of France through its export credit agency, Coface, which was considering providing a guarantee for the export of the turbines for this project. We denounce the economic diplomacy of the French government, which is trying to sell nuclear abroad while at the same time deciding to reduce its share in the French energy mix, and we ask French banks to end their support for nuclear power. The abandonment of the Kaliningrad plant is good news but other dodgy deals are ongoing, such as nuclear power plant in Jaitapur in India, with the active interest of a number of French banks. We remain vigilant and we will certainly mobilize if necessary," said Lucie Pinson.