fbpx

Grigory Pasko: Traveling the Nord Stream, Part X

The Coordinators from EWN By Grigory Pasko, journalist Just a couple of kilometers outside Lubmin is an industrial center – that’s what the name is now for the 25-hectare site of the huge Nord nuclear power station, which was decommissioned 15 years go. The site is owned by the company EWN (Energiewerke Nord GmbH), an name that is know not only in Germany, but outside it as well. The company is known not only because its specialists possess unique experience in servicing decommissioned nuclear power stations, dismantling the equipment, and creating long-term storage facilities for radioactive waste, but also because it is engaged in the coordination of work within the framework of the realization of a project to dismantle 120 nuclear submarines of the Northern Fleet of the former Soviet Union. The contract, which carries a price tag of 300 million euros, is part of Germany’s contribution within the framework of cooperation between G8 countries with respect to the question of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Memoranda about this were signed in 2003 in the Canadian town of Kananaskis. Then the western countries showed readiness to provide financial-and-economic assistance in such priority areas for Russia as the destruction of chemical weapons and the destruction of nuclear submarines that had been written off from the composition of the Navy.

lubmin0702.jpg

Aerial view of the former Nord nuclear power station, now the industrial center where the pipeline with gas will make landfall

According to the agreements attained at the negotiations, Russia will be allocated 10 billion dollars. The United States, will add to this financing yet another 10 billion dollars, and, in such a manner, Russia will get a total of 20 billion dollars during the course of the next ten years. President of Russia V.Putin declared after this: “We… consider that these declarations must be reinforced by practical action, first and foremost – the earliest possible approval of projects in priority directions of global partnership, the liquidation of chemical weapons, the destruction of nuclear submarines that are outdated and have been taken out of combat strength.” With the help of EWN, these declarations are being “reinforced by practical action”. As local activists-politicians later clarified, the fact that EWN commercial director Dieter Rittscher personally spoke with me during the course of an hour and a half testifies to the great attention that the company has given to a Russian journalist.

ritcher.jpg

Photo of EWN commercial director Dieter Rittscher by Grigory Pasko

And indeed, I could feel this attention. Herr Rittscher told me in great detail about EWN’s participation in the North European Gas Pipeline project, about the plans of international companies to build two power stations – one running on gas, the other on coal – on the territory of the industrial center. I asked: which station, in Herr Rittscher’s opinion, would be given preference – the coal or the gas one? The answer was quick: both would be built. Moreover, judging by the great confidence and certainty with which Herr Rittscher said this, it seemed to me that the question had definitely been decided already, and it was a done deal. And this despite the fact that local environmentalists, as well as Lubmin’s Bürgermeister, Klaus Kühnemann, are constantly manifesting concern about all the industrial projects, the construction of which is planned in this region.

more0702.jpg

Photo of the edge of the sea where the pipeline will be laid by Grigory Pasko

Herr Rittscher knows about the demands of the environmentalists and of environmental legislation. These demands, in his words, will be taken into account. At the same time, for some reason he didn’t mention some numbers that unfortunately became known to me only later, or else I certainly would have inquired about Herr Rittscher’s opinion of them. Thus, the construction of the gas pipeline from Lubmin into the heart of Germany and beyond, to The Netherlands, will require the destruction of over 300 hectares of forest. And the coal-fired power plant will release over 12 million tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere of this lovely resort area. How will these circumstances be “taken into account”? Perhaps this question needs to be addressed not to an EWN director, but to the planners. But either way, the question remains open still. It goes without saying that I asked Herr Rittscher his opinion relative to the reputation of their companion – the «Gazprom» concern. After all, it is known that «Gazprom» is engaged in non-core activities: it maintains hotels, newspapers and radio stations, and even fur-bearing animal breeding farms, not to mention the German soccer team «Schalke 04». To this ought to be added the buying up of YUKOS assets, the perpetual “gas wars” between Russia and the countries of the CIS, the shameless squeezing out of Shell and muscling in on the «Sakhalin-2» project, the conflict around the Kovykta field, and the refusal to partner with foreign companies in the project for the development of Shtokman… Let’s be honest – for a company that positions itself as open and adhering to the standards of doing business in the civilized world, «Gazprom» doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation. So why are the Germans so careless in their choice of partners? Herr Rittscher replied that they know «Gazprom’s» reputation very well. And non-core assets, of course, are not a good thing. But there is nothing dangerous for business in this: many world companies did so in their time. The situation should be evaluated as a vestige of the Soviet past. Look 30 years down the road, and «Gazprom» will have become a normal civilized company.

les0702.jpg

Photo of some of the pine trees on the edge of Lubmin which will need to be chopped down by Grigory Pasko

I asked if politics could get in the way of the construction of the gas pipeline? “No”, replied Herr Rittscher. “This project is not political, but economic. It is understandable, after all, that the pipelines through Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine are out of date. Besides, one needs to pay high duties for the transit of the gas. Not to mention other things.” (Here, Herr Rittscher was obviously hinting at the theft of gas—G.P.) “Furthermore, the route through the Baltic is the shortest one. And the gas is earmarked not only for Germany, after all, but also for Finland, Holland, England… Germany is also a transit territory. We were always confident that there will be a pipeline.” My next question didn’t catch the EWN commercial director unawares, either: about Germany’s increased dependence on Russian gas. “I know”, said Herr Rittscher, “those people who talk about this dependence. These are those who do not explain how we are to solve energy problems. This is not a new discussion: we had the same one 30 years ago, when we had the first shipments of Russian gas to Germany. If now Germany consumes 40% Russian gas, then 10-20% more is of no consequence already. Liberal politicians understand that we have to work even more closely with Russia. We see ourselves that economic relations with Russia are becoming closer. We are only at the beginning of the development of new projects.”

karta0702.jpg

The pipeline will hit land near the canal leading to the former nuclear power station (“KKW Greifswald” on the map) – right next door to a large nature reserve (the green zone on the top right of the map)

To my question relative to how far the Nord Stream project has advanced, Herr Rittscher replied thus: “There is already permission for a pipeline to Berlin with a diameter of 120 mm. We are proceeding from the position that construction will begin in the year 2009, and will end in 2010. Court hearings have already begun on permitting a pipeline along the direction to Leipzig and Osnabrück. The pipeline project fits nicely into the plan of common European networks that was started 10 years ago. Besides this, all the plans are in the strategy for the development of the Land [German Federal State] of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.” During our conversation, Herr Rittscher also told me about how EWN is participating in the project for the dismantling of Russian nuclear submarines, how it’s building a storage facility for radioactive wastes in Saida Bay, how it’s shipping equipment to the far East… This topic seemed to me to be so important and interesting that the two of us agreed to have another meeting in order to discuss it in greater detail, as well as to take a look at the storage facility that has already been built in Lubmin.