UPDATE 1-Lithuania picks Hitachi GE for nuclear plant plan
* Lithuania picks Hitachi to build a new nuclear plant
* Hitachi-GE to provide ABWR design reactor
* Plans to sign contract by end-2011, have plant in 2020
(Adds quotes, details)
By Nerijus Adomaitis
VILNIUS, July 14 (Reuters) - Lithuania has picked Japan's Hitachi and a combined Hitachi-U.S. General Electric company to continue talks on building a new nuclear power plant by 2020, the Energy Ministry said on Thursday.
Lithuania has said it wanted to build a new nuclear power plant cut energy dependence on its former Soviet master Russia, the sole supplier of natural gas. Lithuania is also having an argument with Moscow about unbundling of the gas market.
An alliance of the Japanese and U.S. group had been competing against Westinghouse, a U.S.-based unit of Japan's Toshiba , to supply technology for a new plant and to become a strategic investor.
"The Concession (Tender) Commission has concluded that Hitachi has made the most financially advantageous proposal," Deputy Energy Minister Romas Svedas told a news conference.
He said the commission took into account both the financial proposal and the technology. Svedas declined to provide the size of the planned investment or the plant's cost, saying it was a matter for negotiations with the investor and regional partners.
Previous estimates have put the cost at 3-5 billion euros.
"The evaluation of the proposals ... included consideration of the level of equity commitment offered," the ministry said in a statement.
The government has said it wanted the strategic investor to share financing of the new plant with its regional partners -- Latvia, Estonia and Poland.
Hitachi also offered to supply technology, ABWR design reactor of 1,350 megawatts (MW), developed by Hitachi's alliance with the GE.
"Our timetable remains the same: to sign the contract by the end of this year and to have the plant online by 2020," Svedas added.
The regional partners, like Poland, need to cover power deficit, or to cut on carbon emissions, like Estonia.
"Once operational, the Visaginas nuclear power plant will add about 1,300 MW of low-carbon power capacity and will significantly enhance the security of energy supply in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland," the ministry said. (Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by James Jukwey) ($1=.6991 Euro)