Budapest says regardless of Ukraine war and sanctions, contracts ‘had to be changed’ Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev (left) and Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto sign the amended Paks 2 contracts. Courtesy Rosatom. Hungary and Russia have reached agreement on “all the necessary issues” needed to proceed with the construction of two more nuclear power plants at the Paks site.

Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto confirmed on social media that agreement had been reached on “the amendment of the construction and financing contract for the expansion of Paks”.

He said that regardless of the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, “life and the technological situation have changed so much that contracts had to be changed”.

“We have gone through long negotiations, but today we have reached an agreement on all the necessary issues that guarantee that we can carry out the investment and protect Hungarian families and the Hungarian economy from completely insane price changes,” Szijjarto said.

Szijjarto held talks in Moscow on the Paks 2 project for Russia to build two new nuclear power plants at the Paks site in central Hungary.

His visit was rare by an official from a European Union country and was seen as a move that underscored Budapest’s schism with the rest of the bloc over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Szijjarto met energy officials as part of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s effort to maintain his country’s links to Russia on oil, gas and nuclear supplies even as EU partners move to break free.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom is overseeing the expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power station, a €12.5bn ($13.6bn) deal that has drawn criticism for giving Russia’s president Vladimir Putin influence over an EU country’s energy supply.

The Paks project would see Russia supplying two new-generation VVER-1200 PWR units in a deal financed mostly with a Russian loan.

Nations Want ‘Multifaceted’ Nuclear Cooperation

In talks with Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev, Szijjarto discussed “further steps” in the implementation of the Paks 2 project and other aspects of “multifaceted cooperation in the nuclear sector”, Rosatom said, without giving details.

Rosatom said general construction work is continuing at the Paks site for auxiliary buildings and related facilities.

“The process of obtaining licence documentation for certain types of work and equipment manufacturing has been launched,” Rosatom said.

The main construction licence for the Paks extension was issued by the Hungarian regulator in August 2022.

Szijjarto also met Russian deputy prime minister for energy Alexander Novak.

Novak and Likhachev are both under sanctions from Ukraine and some of its allies, although not by the EU. Orban has criticised EU sanctions against Russia, saying they do not work. He has said sanctions on Russia’s nuclear sector, long discussed by the EU, are a “red line” Hungary will not cross.

Orban and Putin agreed on Paks 2 in 2014, but the project has gone through delays and permitting issues.

The existing Paks station is Hungary’s only commercial nuclear power facility. Its four reactors provide about 48% of the country’s electricity.

Szijjarto said in March 2022 that that Hungary did not plan to cancel the Paks project, because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Date: Friday, 14 April 2023
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