The Hungarian government is committed to nuclear energy, and so is the population: according to a survey conducted early this year, 70 percent of Hungarians support nuclear power plants.
Hungary has one nuclear power plant, Paks. Built with Russian technology, it has been in operation since the 1980s. The four units are set to be decommissioned in the 2030s, but the government is seeking a lifetime-expansion that could mean a further 10 to 20 years of operation.
The country is also building two more units at the same site by the river Danube. The new units were meant to replace the old ones, but expansion means they might be operational side-by-side for decades.
According to government officials, electricity is crucial due to increasing household demand, and because various Asian battery factories are set to be built in the country, which require a steady flow of power.
The constructor of the new units is Russian state-owned company Rosatom, which supplies the reactor assembly with French, German and American companies supplying other main systems. Hungary awarded the contract to Rosatom, skipping an open international tender in 2014, with Moscow providing a loan of 10 billion euros.
However, Péter Szijjártó, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, has recently disclosed that all contracts are being renegotiated because time has passed since the signing of the original documents. Sanctions against Russia are also playing a key part.
Some analysts believe Rosatom will be unable to deliver the project under such circumstances. Others argue that it is in Hungary’s national interest to find another contractor, as Russia is now a hostile power.
Similar to the way in which the previous contracts were kept secret until 2019, the modifications are still unclear. It is not certain whether the details will allow Rosatom to conclude the project. Also, the construction of the new units is already years behind schedule, mostly because of Rosatom’s failure to present design plans that comply with EU and Hungarian standards.