Hungary Adding New VVER-1200 Nuclear Reactors in First for EU

Hungary’s nuclear energy agency has issued a license for construction of two reactors for Paks II, a power generation project first launched in early 2014 as part of an inter-governmental agreement between Hungary and Russia. Officials said Paks II would be the first nuclear plant in the European Union to use Rosatom’s Generation III+ VVER-1200 reactor technology.

The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (OAH) on Aug. 26 signified its support for construction and issued an implementation license, saying after its review of the project’s design that Paks II complies with both Hungarian and European safety standards. The contract to build the nuclear power plant (NPP) is supported by a Russian state loan, which is financing most of the construction of the $12-billion facility. Rosatom is Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation.

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said, “Today, the Paks II NPP project is taking another leap forward. The construction license confirms that the project complies with the international and Hungarian safety requirements. It is entirely feasible that Hungary will have two new power units by 2030, thus ensuring the stability of energy supply.”

Hungary is moving forward with the project despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is Hungary’s eastern neighbor. Finland in May of this year ended a construction contract with Rosatom due to that invasion.

Support for Nuclear Power

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Organ has consistently supported nuclear power as part of his country’s energy mix. Hungary, like other European nations, has for years relied on oil and gas from Russia to support its energy needs.

Officials in a news release Friday said Paks II will have “cutting-edge automated active and passive safety systems, including a reinforced concrete containment with a double wall structure and a core catcher to prevent the release of radioactive substances from the active zone in the extremely unlikely event of a beyond-design accident.”

“An enormous amount of work has been accomplished together with our Hungarian partners to prepare the documentation. The construction license for the new power units of the Hungarian NPP demonstrates firm belief in the Russian VVER-1200 technology, which has successfully passed the test of time and proved its safety and reliability. We are confident that the Paks II NPP will guarantee Hungary’s energy sovereignty for almost a century and bring European countries closer to achieving climate goals,” said Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom Director General.

New Units Will Replace Older Reactors

The Paks site, about 100 kilometers south of Budapest, is currently home to four Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurized water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987. The two new VVER-1200 reactors are expected to replace generation from the earlier units, which are expected to be retired between 2032 and 2037, according to Hungarian authorities.

The construction license for the Paks II reactors comes after other permits for the project already were approved, part of a multi-step Hungarian licensing process. MVM, the Hungarian utility that owns the plant, and Atomerőmű Zrt, the plant’s operator, already have permits to connect Paks II to the power grid. The group in November 2021 received approval to manufacture two reactor pressure vessels for the Paks II units. Several new buildings that will support Paks II have been built or are under construction at the site.

“A number of key licences issued by the Hungarian authority, the OAH, for the nuclear power plant construction project is an important step towards the transition of the project to the construction stage of two state-of-the-art, safest possible nuclear power units with Generation III+ reactors, which will ensure Hungary’s stable and financially affordable electricity supply until the end of the century,” said Alexander Merten, vice president of the main project’s contractor ASE JSC, a Rosatom subsidiary, and director of the Paks II project.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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