MVM Paksi Atomerömű Zrt, operator of Hungary’s Paks NPP has notified the European Union (EU) of it plans to extend the operating lifetime of the four units to 70 years. "This marks the beginning of the roughly decade-long process" to extend the operating licence by another 20 years, said MVM CEO Péter János Horváth noting that the notification was made in accordance with Euratom regulations.

The Hungarian government announced the extension plans in December 2022 following parliamentary approval. Paks NPP, comprises four Soviet-supplied VVER-440 units that started up between 1982 and 1987. Their design lifetime was for 30 years but that was extended in 2005 by 20 years, to between 2032 and 2037 and they are now expected to operate until at least 2052-2057. At the same time, work is underway to expand the plant with the construction of two new units. 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.

Horváth said: "This power plant is no longer the same as the one that started operating four decades ago: thanks to continuous developments, renovations, safety-enhancing measures – and not least the responsible, dedicated team of professionals with extraordinary a generation more advanced knowledge and experience – this power plant today is already than it was when it started.”

He added: “At the same time, during the process of extending the operating hours, we examine and evaluate each bit of our equipment and systems and, if necessary, replace them, all of course in accordance with international practice, under strict official control, as we have always done. As a result of the operation and maintenance practices developed with maximum commitment to safety and a responsible, good stewardship approach, the Paks nuclear power plant is fully capable of serving Hungary for decades to come."

In an interview with Economicx Pál Tóth, Paks Deputy Chief Technical Officer the reconstruction of the NPP will cost about €1.5bn ($1.6bn). “But each topic is individually prepared, submitted to a technical meeting, and when this forum accepts the detailed foundation, a clarified cost calculation is made available. As we move forward, the entire reconstruction project is expected to cost a little more money, but it will remain in the order of €1.5bn. This includes the second wave of reconstruction planned for the 1940s: this will be carried out mainly on control systems, since by then a range of equipment will be at the end of its 20-year service life.”

Image: Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant