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Hungary’s Paks-2 project could enter construction phase in September says FM

Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó met with Rosatom Director-General Alexey Likhachev in Istambul today to discuss how to speed up the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant, which Hungary regards as a cornerstone of its energy security in light of soaring crude and gas prices.

“Today, all pending issues were clarified, which were necessary for Rosatom to submit all permit applications to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority, whose approval is required for the investment to move into the second, construction phase in September,” announced Péter Szijjártó after meeting the head of the Russian nuclear power giant.

The minister revealed that there are four important permits that need to be issued, the most important of course is the permit for the construction to begin. Rosatom said to provide all the necessary documents for the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority to give a reasoned opinion.

By the end of October 2023, the government wants to see construction works beginning on the ground, which requires the legal and physical launch of the second phase.

“All of this is necessary for the two new units to be operational by 2030, increasing the capacity of the Paks nuclear power plant from 2,000 megawatts (MW) to 4,400 MW,” underlined the minister.

“The sooner we can build the two new reactors unit of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, the more stable our energy supply will be and the sooner we will be able to decouple ourselves from the staggering global energy market disruptions and extreme price fluctuations, that we have seen lately and will probably see also in the future,” he underlined adding that the recent period has shown most clearly that in the future, only countries that can produce the energy they use will be safe.

Source: Facebook of Péter Szijjártó

Paks currently has four small Russian-built VVER 440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 MW that started operating between 1982 and 1987. The nuclear power plant accounts for half of Hungary’s electricity production and the government relies on nuclear as a cheap and safe option which can also contribute to achieving the country’s climate targets.

In 2014, Hungary signed a deal with Russia, awarding Rosatom the project to build two additional Russian VVER 1200 reactors at Paks. The new reactors will be built on a turnkey basis, with Russia providing a preferential loan of 80 per cent of the total construction cost of the two new units, which amounts to 12.5 billion euros.

Hungary planned to start building the reactors in 2018 and complete the first one in 2025, and the second in 2026 but the project has been seriously delayed and is still in permissioning phase.

As the war in Ukraine unfolded, Rosatom has reassured Hungary that “in terms of technology they are able to complete the project”. The parties agreed to pay particular attention to fulfilling the key activities of the roadmap for the project for 2022-2023 and transitioning to the stage of constructing the plant.

On 10 June, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority issued a licence for the Paks-2 project to start the soil stabilisation of the nuclear power plant construction site and just yesterday another permit was issued related to nuclear safety.

The four existing reactors at Paks were supposed to retire between 2032 and 2037 but Hungary just recently announced that it plans to extend the lifetime of these reactors by up to 20 additional years. The responsible ministry will make the necessary assessments about costs and feasibility next month.

Paks-2 is now the only major industrial project involving Russian-supplied VVER-1200 reactors in the European Union after the Finnish-led consortium, Fennovoima abandoned a contract with Rosatom to build Finland’s third nuclear power plant citing risks related to the war in Ukraine back in May.

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