On 30 June Hungary’s Paks II Ltd submitted a construction licence application for new nuclear units at the Paks nuclear plant to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA).
The regulatory procedure started on the 1 July. HAEA has 12 months to reach a decision, although this can be extended by additional three months if needed.
HAEA said it is prepared for the decision-making process. “In order to process the licence application efficiently, a dedicated work programme with a tight time schedule will start to review tens of thousands of pages of documentation, since multiple disciplines will be involved in this complex process."
More than half of the HAEA's 180 staff members are expected to be involved in the licence review.
"Meanwhile, HAEA will also perform its other regulatory duties, such as supervising nuclear and radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities, other users of radiation sources, and also handling other licence applications, and fulfilling its international obligations.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will also review the compliance of the Preliminary Safety Analysis Report with relevant safety standards.
HAEA said it will also seek the opinion of external experts and has invited an IAEA Technical Safety Review Mission at the end of 2020. HAEA said the goal is “to have an independent international expert review in the coordination of the IAEA on the Preliminary Safety Analysis Report, which serves as the base of the construction licence application”. During the review process, the review team will evaluate whether the planned new units at Paks comply with the IAEA safety standards. The will be taken into account by HAEA during its decision-making.
After three months, other licence applications related to the new nuclear units can be submitted. Under recently amended Nuclear Safety Codes (NSC), building permit applications for certain site preparation activities (e.g. soil improvement, excavation of the foundation pit, slurry wall construction) and permit applications for manufacturing long lead items (e.g. reactor pressure vessel) can be submitted three months after submission of the construction licence application.
However, even after these permits are issued, the licensee “can only start preparatory works at its own risk as modifications might be necessary based on the findings of the construction licencing procedure”. Building permitting procedures for nuclear safety related construction may also begin after the three-month period but those permits cannot be issued before the construction licence is issued.
HAEA said it continuously monitors, inspects and evaluates the activities of the Paks II even during the construction licence procedure. A number of inspections have already been carried out related to the design review process, the supplier’s supervision, training, management system development, as well as on-site activities, such as the construction of the construction support base buildings and the implementation of on-site engineering surveys (engineer-geotechnical research).
HAEA said the safety of the Paks nuclear power plant cannot be compromised during the construction. Special attention needs to be paid to the safe operation of the existing Paks units and the Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility near the construction area.
In 2014, the HAEA issued the site investigation and evaluation licence, and in 2017 the site licence. Permits for the construction of several construction support buildings (including the office building, kitchen, canteen, workshop and storage buildings) were also issued.
Paks NPP currently has four Russia-supplied VVER-440 units with a total gross capacity of 2000MWe. Under an agreement signed in 2014, Russia is to supply two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors for Paks II, and a loan of up to €10bn to finance 80% of the €12bn project. In April the European Commission approved a draft of an amendment to a government decree on site preparatory work for two new units.
Spent fuel storage expansion
Meanwhile, expansion of a temporary storage facility for used fuel at the existing Paks nuclear plant is proceeding as scheduled, RHK, the company in charge of managing radioactive waste in Hungary, said on 29 June, according to a report by state news wire MTI.
The temporary storage facility with the capacity to store 11,416 rods is almost 86% full, but RHK signed a contract late last year for the construction of four more chambers that are expected to be completed by the spring of 2024.
RHK expects 360 used fuel rods to be placed in the facility each year, however it is licensed to take up to 500 annually. The temporary storage facility was originally planned with a capacity to store 14,850 spent fuel rods in 33 chambers, but that was scaled up to 17,716 spent fuel rods because of the life extension of the power plant and other developments.
The facility has 24 chambers at present: 16 with a capacity to store 450 rods apiece, and eight with a capacity to store 527 rods each. Nine more chambers each with a capacity to store 703 rods are being added to the facility.
Construction licence application has been submitted for Paks II nuclear plant in Hungary