Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Péter Szijjártó expects first concrete to be poured for nuclear units at the Paks-II NPP before the end of 2024. This was enabled by signing of an amended construction contract paving the way for work to begin.

The Paks-II project was launched in 2014 by an inter-governmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two VVER-1200 reactors (units 5&6) to be supplied by Rosatom. The contract was supported by a Russian state loan to finance the majority of the project. The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority issued the licence for the units in August 2022. The following December, the Hungarian parliament approved the extension of the life of the four existing VVER-440 power units at the Paks NPP for another 20 years. The current life of the station's nuclear reactors would have ended in 2032-2037, and now it is assumed that they will work until at least 2052-2057. Paks currently provides half of all generated and one third of the consumed electricity in Hungary.

The signing of the contract is an important milestone in the construction of the new units, Szijjártó said after a video call with Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and a meeting with Alexander Merten, deputy head of Rosatom’s ASE, general contractor for the project. The signing of the new construction contract was made possible by a modified financing contract, which entered into force on 16 August.

Szijjártó told a joint press conference with Merten that there are several provisions in the new contract that will speed up and facilitate progress in the project. Work on the diaphragm wall is ongoing, with 467 metres of it already built, and groundwork for unit six is due to begin, he said, adding that ground consolidation work would start in the autumn. Meanwhile, production of long-term equipment is underway.

Meanwhile, Szijjártó said the project’s financial transactions were ongoing for which the necessary contract modifications were completed. The Paks upgrade is a major international project that is not subject to any sanctions, with both Rosatom and Hungary cooperating with several Western companies, he emphasised. Szijjártó said Europe would not impose any sanctions on the nuclear industry in the future, emphasising that Hungary would never support such a step, which would harm its national interests.

Energy security is one of the most critical issues today, he said, adding that the countries that can produce as much of their own energy as possible would be the most secure in the future. In Hungary’s case, NPPs are the only way to produce large amounts of energy, Szijjártó said, noting that it was a safe, environmentally friendly and cheap way to produce electricity. The expansion of the Paks plant is therefore a long-term guarantee of affordable energy in Hungary Szijjártó added that Hungary therefore views any attacks against or moves aimed at blocking the project as attempted violations of its sovereignty.

Under the financial arrangements in the contract, Russia will provide Hungary with a loan of up to €10bn for the works, services and equipment required for the design, construction and commissioning of the two units. In the future, at least six months before each budget period, the amount of the loan to be used for Paks-II in that period must be agreed. However, Hungary may reduce this, if it informs the Russian Ministry of Finance by 1 July of the year in question. In any given annual budget period, Hungary is required to pay 0.25% of the agreed amount of unused credit as an availability fee.

Image: Hungarian Foreign Affairs & Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto