* Majority vote "No" to power plant in referendum
* Project intended to reduce reliance on Russian energy
* Party leaders say project could still happen, but later
By Christian Lowe and Andrius Sytas
VILNIUS, Oct 15 Lithuanians rejected a plan to build
a nuclear plant to cut dependence on imports of Russian energy,
in a referendum that does not kill off the project but leaves a
big question mark over its future.
Support for the plant in Lithuania, one of the European
Union states most dependent on imported energy, waned after the
Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year.
With results counted from about three-quarters of
Lithuania's districts after Sunday's referendum, 62.7 percent
voted "No", while 33.96 percent were in favour.
Turnout was about 52 percent, just over the threshold to
make the referendum valid.
The referendum on Sunday was consultative, so Lithuania's
leaders are not obliged to scrap the power plant. The vote was
held alongside a parliamentary election which is likely to hand
power to an opposition coalition.
U.S.-Japanese joint venture Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy
was lined up to build the plant, and Lithuania's Baltic
neighbours Latvia and Estonia were also involved in the
Leaders of the two parties which did best in the election
said the project could not go ahead in the form it is in now,
but did not rule out building a nuclear plant.
"We are not anti-nuclear power. We are against this project
which was given to parliament for discussion very late before
the election," said Algirdas Butkevicius, head of the
second-placed Social Democrat party.
"We are rational people. We will talk. We will not take any
Viktor Uspaskich, whose Labour party had the strongest
showing in the election, said the nuclear plant could be put to
a vote again once there was a clearer picture on how it will be
"As new circumstances appear, you can ask the opinion of the
people once again. When there is a ready project, when most
questions are answered, after two years it's possible to ask
people once again," he said on Monday.
The government that was voted out in Sunday's election had
proposed building the new plant on the site of the Soviet-built
Ignalina plant in eastern Lithuania, that was shut in 2009.
Lithuania's finance ministry projects the total cost of
building the plant at 6.8 billion euros. It says 4 billion euros
would come from loans, and the rest would be put up by the
contractor and energy firms in the Baltic states.