Work on the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant (Paks II) is proceeding smoothly, which will enable Hungary to maintain its energy security, preserve the results of the reduction of electricity prices, and further strengthen environmental protection, said Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade Péter Szijjártó.

He noted that he had reviewed the status of the Paks expansion project in a recent telephone conversation with Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, to ensure that the project can be handed over as soon as possible. Likhachev will be visiting Hungary again soon to review the status of the process and the legal issues involved.

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. The following 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.

The preparatory construction work is proceeding “smoothly and without any disruption”, with 2.7 kilometres of slab-lining completed at the end of last year and soil stabilisation underway, Szijjártó noted. This will be completed by mid-2025 year, when 70,000 piles will have been placed in the ground at varying depths, 3,000 of which have been installed so far. “It looks like we can keep to the current schedule,” he added. By the end of this year the first concrete will be poured, and “we will be able to start the necessary tests as early as February”.

Szijjártó said the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority had already issued all the necessary permits for the work that is underway and about to start. The recent adoption by parliament of an amendment to the Nuclear Safety Act simplifying licensing process and allowing the project to proceed faster while ensuring maximum compliance with safety requirements, “is a great help in this regard,” he noted. The production of the reactor vessel will start in the spring, probably in April, with procurement of the raw materials already underway, and the melt trap will be ready by April or May.

Construction of the two new reactor units will increase the share of nuclear energy in Hungary’s electricity supply to around 70% and along with current and planned solar capacities, Hungary will be very close to self-sufficiency, he said. The Paks expansion will also reduce natural gas imports by 3-3.5bn cubic metres a year and will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 17m tonnes, “contributing significantly to environmental efforts”.