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Media: Viktor Orban blocked independence from Russia in the nuclear sector

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has blocked plans to push the Russians out of the project to expand the nuclear power plant in Paks, the investigative portal Direkt36 reported. He added that such ideas appeared in Hungarian government circles last year.

The expansion of the nuclear power plant in Paks is one of the key energy projects of Viktor Orban's government. The construction of two new units with a capacity of 1,200 MW each was entrusted to Rosatom at the beginning of 2014. The entire investment is expected to amount to approximately EUR 12 billion, of which 80 percent the costs will be covered by a Russian loan.

The Hungarian nuclear sector

According to Direkt36, last year in Budapest there were concerns about whether, given the risk of EU sanctions being imposed on the Russian nuclear sector, Rosatom would be able to complete the project, which is already significantly delayed. Moreover, the German Siemens, which, together with the French Framatome, was to provide control elements for the new units, did not obtain the consent of the government in Berlin.

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The state-owned company Paks II, responsible for the construction of new units, then came up with the idea to launch the Paks III project and entrust it to the French Framatome. Without further assistance from the Hungarian state to the Russians in Paks II, the project would eventually fail – say the sources cited by Direkt36.

The idea was to gain the support of Energy Minister Csaba Lantos, and the participation of the French was also considered as a result of the rapprochement between President Emmanuel Macron and Orban. However, the Hungarian Prime Minister decided to “stick to the Russian path”, taking into account legal and financial factors, as well as the additional time needed to implement an alternative solution, the portal writes.

As Direkt36 points out, this is not the only case in which the government in Budapest has not reduced its independence from Russia in the matter of nuclear energy. Hungary has not decided to cooperate with the American Westinghouse, which has already supplied fuel to similar reactors, due to poor relations with the administration of US President Joe Biden.

At the end of April, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto announced that the construction of a reactor tank for the new blocks of the Paks nuclear power plant had started in St. Petersburg, which he described as a “milestone” in the implementation of the project.

Budapest believes that the new capacity of the nuclear power plant will help increase the energy independence of the country, which has no access to the sea and must import energy raw materials, mainly from Russia.

Szijjarto met many times with the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Orban's government openly says it will block any attempts by the EU to impose sanctions on the nuclear sector.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/Olivier Matthys

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