Following talks in Budapest, Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, and Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade Peter Szijjártó confirmed that work on the construction of new power units at the Paks NPP (Paks II) is proceeding at a rapid pace. 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.

Last year, ahead of schedule, excavation was carried out to the depth of 5 metres – the level of groundwater. The construction of impervious curtain – a special underground concrete wall around the excavation 2,700 meters long – was completed, which will protect the excavation from groundwater infiltration and ensure safe operation of the operating units during the construction of new ones. The soil is now being strengthened and the ground consolidated.

At a joint press conference with Likhachev, Szijjártó said soil consolidation work is currently underway on an area of 17 hectares, which requires the drilling of 75,000 piles, 8.000 of which are already in place. He then stressed that this work will be done by a German company and will have to complete it by the summer of 2025. During the summer, it is planned to start excavation of the foundation pit to the design depth of 30 metres. After that, work will begin on the preparation of reinforced concrete for the future foundation slab.

“The momentum we have gained allows us to expect that all preparatory work at the site will be completed by the end of this year, which will ensure that we can proceed directly to the pouring of the first concrete,” said Likhachev. “Therefore, I believe that this year will be a particularly remarkable one for the entire project. It is also important that we have made considerable progress in optimising and updating the EPC contract, working together with the Hungarian side.”

Hungarian industry is showing great interest in the project. To date more than 100 subcontractor companies from Hungary as well as other European countries are involved. In February, the general contractor of the project, ASE JSC, held a workshop for potential suppliers that was attended by representatives of almost 190 companies from different countries.

“At the site of Paks II, work is ongoing, there are no obstacles to pouring the first concrete by the end of this year, and there are no obstacles to connecting two new power units to the Hungarian power grid at the beginning of the next decade,” Szijjártó noted. “Russia has completed production of the melt trap, so it will be delivered to Hungary in the near future. This will be a powerful operation, because this heavy equipment weighs more than 700 tonnes. We are proud of the fact that a truly large international project is being implemented in Paks, because in addition to the Russian general contractor, there are also German, French, Austrian, Swedish and American companies in the chain of subcontractors.”

In April, the production of the reactor pressure vessel for unit 1 of Paks II will start in Russia. In the second half of the year, the melt trap will be delivered to Hungary – equipment intended to limit the consequences of a beyond-design- basis accident. This will be the first long production cycle equipment delivered to the construction site.

In an interview with Ria Novosti, Vitaly Polyanin, Vice President of general contractor ASE JSC and Director of Paks II construction, emphasised the international dimensions of the project. Polyanin previously headed the construction of the Belarusian NPP, the second unit of which was put into commercial operation in November 2023.

"As you know, all nuclear power plants are different, but the Belarusian NPP and the Leningrad NPP-2 are reference stations for Paks II. In this sense, the experience gained during the construction of nuclear plants in Belarus will certainly come be useful for ASE and for me in Hungary," he said. Specialists from Belarus are already working at Paks including builders, installers, electricians and representatives of other professions.

"I invited part of my team, the rest is now working on Rosatom projects in Bangladesh and Egypt,” he said. He stressed that Paks II was “truly international” and will involve Russians, Hungarians, Belarusians, Turks, Serbs and representatives of several other countries.

Image: Rosatom director Alexey Likhachev and Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade Peter Szijjártó confirmed in a recent press conference that work on the construction of new power units at the Paks NPP is proceeding at a good pace (courtesy of Rosatom)