Hungarian Foreign Affairs & Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó has confirmed that the modifications made to the contract for construction of the Paks II NPP in April represent only minor technical changes. He told a press conference that “In both the financing and construction contracts, we agreed with the Russian partner [Rosatom] on amendments to Paks II. These related to the structure of the investment and the executor but left the project company untouched.”

He added that the minor contract changes were dictated by the passage of time. “Nine years have passed since the contract was signed, and a lot has changed since then. Technical changes are being made to speed things up,” he said.

He also noted that the EU is not expected not to hinder the amendment of the contract in this regard, as it also complies with EU rules and security regulations in all respects. He said the European Commission will have an easy task and will be able to authorise Paks II quickly with the contract amendments.

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. In 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.

In a speech to the Ernst & Young International Consulting Company he noted: “Everyone seems to be trying to place the obstacles on the road to building the Paks nuclear plant. Although there are no nuclear sanctions yet, the German government has made it virtually impossible for Siemens to honour a contract it has concluded with Rosatom [for equipment].” He noted that negotiations are under way with Framatome to supply the needed components.

Earlier, following a European Union (EU) ministerial meeting in Brussels, he told journalists that Hungary will not allow the EU to impose sanctions on the Russian nuclear energy industry. Although

Budapest is facing tremendous pressure over the issue, this will not affect its position, he said. “Here and now, I would like to state again that this will definitely not happen. Hungary will not [agree] to nuclear [industry] sanctions of any kind, even minimal ones.” He noted that the Paks NPP is crucial to Hungary’s energy security and Budapest will block any initiative to restrict cooperation with Russia regarding nuclear energy.

Restrictions on Russia’s nuclear sector are being considered as part of the EU’s 11th sanctions package, which is currently being drawn up. Szijjártó added that other EU members that use nuclear energy also oppose the idea. Hungary blocked a similar initiative in February, when the EU adopted its 10th sanctions package. “If there is a proposal to the sanction the nuclear industry, we will consider it an anti-Hungarian proposal and will veto it,” he stressed.

He told a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference that “Hungarian foreign policy will remain Hungarian foreign policy. Decisions will continue to be made in Budapest and in the future they will serve only national interests.” He noted that nine EU member states had formed a group with the declared aim of removing the current need for EU decision to be made unanimously. He said the government would oppose any policy aimed at destroying sovereign, national foreign policy such as the removal of the unanimity requirement from the EU’s foreign policy decision-making.

Image: Hungarian Foreign Affairs & Trade Minister, Péter Szijjártó (courtesy of Portfolia)