Saturday, January 17, 2009

For extremely large values of "without delay"

Into day 10 or 11 or something without gas supply from Russia, Slovakia seems to be holding steady. Residences, schools and hospitals are still unrestricted, although big businesses like US Steel Košice and the KIA plant in Žilina have reduced output or shut down to accomidate their gas caps. Despite an EU negotiated deal to allow the monitored flow of gas through Ukraine that both sides agreed to, the gas hasn't been restored -- I'm not entirely clear on what happened there. For a time, Russia was saying the flow had resumed and Ukraine was saying it hadn't. Then I maybe heard that Ukraine claimed the pressure was too low to be operable, and Russia claimed this was because Ukraine was siphoning off gas. At any rate, that plan seems to be put on the back burner, as far as the media is concerned. The back burner, of course, will not light without gas.

Prime Minister Fico met with Ukrainian and Russian PMs Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin, to suggest some options -- either a gas swap from Ukraine's reserves, with Russia replenishing their supply in equal measure, or a more complicated plan using another pipeline, the Yamal pipeline which normally supplies gas to Germany via Belarus and Poland. The former would be preferable, and is the one Slovakia is pushing for at the moment. Russia is philosophically amenable to the idea, provided Ukraine goes first.

CNN is reporting that Russia claims the gas will resume within the next few days -- not really certain where that fits into things.

Meanwhile, Slovakia's preparing to bring back online a reactor block of the Jaslovské Bohunice V1 nuke plant, which was only shut down a few weeks ago as a condition for EU entry. Should they power it back up, they'll be in violation of treaty, one which Austria is particularly invested in, but they're willing to take responsibility for that should it become necessary. Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Ján Kubiš met with them to fill them in on the details and assure the safety and tranparency of the operation.

On our end of things, our local folks have started scoping out spots for a grand sleepover, should it become necessary, and floating ideas about electric heaters or Viennese vacations. Gas reserves should hold out for a number of weeks yet, and the electrical grid (other than the backup generators) isn't reliant on it, so no one is terribly worried, but it's better to be prepared than to get burnt later. Frozen, I guess.

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