Hungary and Belarus have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation relating to the projects in both countries for new Russian VVER-1200 nuclear reactors.

(Image: Belarus Foreign Ministry)

The MoU was signed at an intergovernmental committee of economic cooperation held in Budapest on Wednesday, by Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, pictured above, right, and his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Aleinik.

The Hungarian government's About Hungary website said the foreign ministers discussed developing cooperation in sectors not affected by sanctions and Szijjarto had noted that 80% of the country’s oil supplies come through the Druzhba pipeline crossing Belarus, which had been "a trustworthy, reliable and fair partner, and has ensured uninterrupted deliveries".

On the issue of nuclear energy and a related agreement they signed at their meeting, Szijjarto was reported to have said that sharing experiences with Belarus, which is building similar nuclear reactors to those under construction in Hungary, was important: "Nuclear security is of universal, global interest, regardless of the geopolitical situation."

Reporting on the same event, Belta, the official news agency in Belarus, quoted Szijjarto as saying that Hungary would not allow EU sanctions to affect nuclear energy and saying the MoU was "very important because Belarus also uses nuclear energy" in terms of the current projects "is about 7-8 years ahead of us and we will tap into the accumulated experience and knowledge". 

The Hungary-Belarus MoU came the day after Szijjarto returned from a trip to Moscow where he held talks with Rosatom and they signed of amendments to the construction and financing agreement for Paks II.

The existing four units at Paks are VVER-440 reactors that started up between 1982 and 1987 and they produce about half of the country's electricity. Their design lifetime was for 30 years but that was extended in 2005 by 20 years to 2032 and 2037. In December, the Hungarian Parliament approved a proposal to further extend their lifespan, which means preparations can begin on operating the nuclear power plant into the 2050s.

The Paks II project was launched in early 2014 by an intergovernmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two VVER-1200 reactors to be supplied by Rosatom, with the contract supported by a Russian state loan to finance the majority of the project. The application was submitted in July 2020 to construct Paks II alongside the existing Paks plant, 100 kilometres southwest of Budapest on the banks of the Danube river. Procedures allowed Hungary's National Atomic Energy Office 12 months to make its decision, with the possibility of extension by three months. That extension was triggered in July 2021, but the construction licence was issued more than a year later, in August 2022.

In January, Hungary's Energy Minister Csaba Lantos said the Paks II plant was now expected to be completed in 2032.

In Belarus, its first nuclear power plant's unit 2 reached the minimum controllable power level with a self-sustaining controlled nuclear reaction last month. The first power unit was connected to the grid in November 2020 and, the energy ministry says, once both units - Russian VVER-1200 reactors - are commissioned, the plant will produce about 18.5 TWh of electricity per year, equivalent to 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas, with an annual effect on the country's economy of about USD550 million.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Friday, 14 April 2023
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