Hungarian president Janos Ader has signed a bill into law for building two new 1000 MWe-capacity VVER reactors at the Paks site, according to local media, which also said that he denied the request of the political opposition for a referendum on the question. The bill was approved by the Hungarian parliament in early February.
The deal is controversial because of the seemingly sudden choice of vendor. On 14 January, an intergovermental agreement between Russia and Hungary was signed that provides for Russian companies to build the units, funded by a Russian loan. The four operational reactors at Paks are VVER-440 reactors designed and built by Russian vendors in the 1980s.
According to a post on Hungarian news site www.politics.hu, the deal, for a EUR 10 billion loan to be repaid over 21 years at a variable interest rate between 4-5%, would also include maintaining and upgrading the original four units.
In 2011, a national energy strategy identified the need to build new nuclear power plants to maintain the country's 40% share of nuclear electricity. State utility MVM Group established MVM Paks II in 2012. No technology choice had been made by January 2014, and designs from the USA, Russia, France and South Korea were all in the running, according to MVM Paks II. It had said on its website, "The company will select the reactor that best meets expectations through a tender, and will focus safe operation as the priority."
But that was not to be.
On 17 January, Daniel Roderick, CEO of Westinghouse, which was in the bidding, commented on the deal at a London press conference. He said that he had been surprised by the news of the deal with the Russian consortium. Westinghouse had been expecting for the project to go through a tender process, although Roderick said that communications between Westinghouse and the Hungarian customers had tailed off in the latter part of 2013.
"If they have done a technical selection, and scored the reactors, I have no problem with that," Roderick said. "But if it was won because the Russian government came in and bought the job, that's hard on private companies." He added, "We're going to try to find out what happened."
Photo: Existing Paks nuclear power plant