The first block of what may be the world's largest nuclear power station, a 6 ,000 megawatt facility at Ignalina in northeastern Soviet Lithuania, started operations on Jan. 1, according to the Soviet Lithuanian Communist Party daily Tiesa.
The nuclear reactor has been built under protest from Lithuanian and other Soviet scientists, according to Baltic exile sources. They point out that the facility lacks cooling towers to cool and contain contaminated water from the reactor core. In the event of a malfunction, hot water and radioactivity could be discharged into a nearby lake.
Julijs Kadelis, who runs an information clearinghouse on Latvia and the neighboring Baltic states in Munster, West Germany, said that Lithuanian scientists had published demands for further investigation of safety measures at the plant in a limited-circulation Soviet journal.
Official publication of what amounts to a veiled protest against the nuclear facility indicates that the Soviet Union still has not achieved unanimous support for the party line that nuclear power is a natural and progressive development under socialism and that Soviet reactors are absolutely safe.
On a recent visit to Sweden, Mr. Kadelis also disclosed that at least two nuclear-tipped SS-20 missiles have been stationed at two sites in Estonia in the past six months. The timing of the deployment, near the towns of Tapa and Koppu, indicates the missiles were set up during the US-Soviet medium-range arms reduction talks in Geneva that were broken off in November.
The information about SS-20s in Estonia was released as part of a documentation on Soviet weapon and troop deployment in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania presented by Baltic emigre organizations in connection with the opening of the Stockholm Conference on Disarmament and Confidence-Building Measures in Europe.
Based on information from Western and neutral military and intelligence sources as well as reports by recent emigrants and travelers from the Baltic states, the documentation showed that an extimated 174 land-based nuclear delivery systems, including missiles and long-range artillery, are stationed in the Baltic states.
Submarine and naval delivery systems total about 140, although among land- and sea-based weapons, some, such as 203-mm artillery, or the naval SS-9 missile , also have conventional warheads.
The Baltic exile spokesmen stressed that most of the nuclear delivery systems had a range that confined their use to potential targets in Scandinavia.
But military analysts do not conclude that Soviet short- and medium-range missiles in the Baltic states are exclusively or primarily for use against targets in Scandinavia.
A Swiss analysis suggests that much of the Baltic arsenal may be a second echelon of weapons to be used in the event of war in Central Europe. However, that would make the Baltic states a prime target for preemptive or retaliatory strikes by NATO.
The threat brought on the Baltic states by Soviet military concentrations was a major motive for an open letter sent to the West in 1981 by 38 Baltic citizens asking that the three republics be included in any agreement for a Nordic nuclear-free zone.
Several of the signatories of the open letter in Latvia and Estonia have been arrested and sentenced to harsh prison terms in recent months.