Péter Szijjártó, recently confirmed by parliament as Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, has told parliament’s economic committee that, in response to the looming energy crisis, the government will work to speed up the expansion of the Paks NPP. Szijjártó's had been re-nominated for the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations in the new government, which is now being formed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, following his election victory.
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 units. 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. The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority issued a site licence for Paks II in 2017 and approval also came from the European Commission that the new plant's effects on competition would be acceptable. Preparatory groundwork began in 2021, following receipt of a specific licence.
Hungary will continue to upgrade the Paks nuclear plant, as the European Union has “made it clear that civilian use of nuclear energy will be exempt from sanctions” against Russia imposed in response to the war in Ukraine, Szijjártó said. At a meeting with Rosatom leaders in Istanbul recently, Rosatom gave assurances about completion of the project”, he noted. Hungary aims to speed up the works and have the new units up and running by 2030, he added.
The government will continue to be committed to Hungary’s energy security over the next four years, Szijjártó told parliament’s sustainable development committee, adding that fulfilling this task would be more difficult than it was in the past 12 years. The incoming cabinet’s energy policy will focus on accelerating the construction and speedy start of two new units at Paks, as well as on continuing efforts to diversify energy supplies, Szijjártó said. The government will also continue to stand up for the security of Hungary’s energy supplies in Europe, he noted.
Paks NPP currently provides 49.6% of Hungary’s electricity production and more than a third of electricity consumption. Russia continues to supply nuclear fuel for the plant by aircraft through the airspace of Belarus, Poland and Slovakia with the knowledge of the EU leadership. Prior to the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, it was transported to Hungary through Ukrainian territory by rail.
Top image: Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade
Bottom image: Artist's impression of the Paks NPP expansion