The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) said on 30 September that it needed more time before it could issue a construction licence for the Paks II nuclear power plant.

Currently, the Paks NPP, built according to the Soviet design, operates four power units with VVER-440 reactors. The Hungarian Parliament in 2009 approved the construction of two new power units at the nuclear power plant. 

The Paks II project was launched in 2014 by an inter-governmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two VVER-1200 reactors to be supplied by Rosatom. The contract was supported by a Russian state loan to finance the majority of the project. HAEA issued a site licence for Paks II in March 2017 and approval also came from the European Commission that the new plant's effects on competition would be acceptable, subject to certain commitments by the Hungarian government. Preparatory groundwork began this year, following receipt of a specific licence.

The construction licence was applied for in June 2020 and HAEA had 12 months to carry out the permit procedure, which was then extended by three months. The main purpose of the licensing procedure is to verify that the nuclear units to be built meet the highest domestic nuclear safety requirements and HAEA consulted international and domestic experts during the licensing process.

HAEA said the submitted documentation “is extremely thorough in several respects, however, in order for the authority to be able to fully verify all requirements, further assessment and analysis is needed in some areas, taking into account the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency's mission. To this end, the National Atomic Energy Authority shall order further rectification of deficiencies in the licensing procedure.”

Earlier in September, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations Peter Siyjarto said Hungary expects that the two new Paks units will be commissioned as early as 2028-2029. 

"Together with Rosatom, we are building a second nuclear power plant in Hungary, which should be commissioned from 2028-2029," Siyjarto said. He noted that this will allow the country to achieve by 2030 the goals to reduce carbon emissions, enshrined in the European Climate Law.

A high-level Hungarian expert told NEI that any delay to the construction licence should not be a matter of concern. The project has full government support and is approved by the EC, he noted. 

Photo: The Paks II nuclear power plant