Hungary moves ahead with construction of Russian-built nuclear reactors

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Hungary has issued a permit allowing the construction of two new nuclear reactors by the Russian state-owned company Rosatom, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced on Friday.

The reactors are part of a 2014 deal between Moscow and Budapest aimed at expanding the existing Paks nuclear plant, Hungary’s only operating nuclear power station.

“This is a big step, an important milestone,” Szijjártó said on Facebook. “We can now move from planning stage to construction. You’ll see that at the Paks site in the coming weeks.”

Russia’s nuclear industry has not been included in EU sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the Russian atomic industry and uranium exports to be included, but the European Commission has not put them in any of the sanctions packages so far.

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The Hungary Nuclear Energy Authority said that the permit issued this week will pave the way to add two new reactors to the four-reactor nuclear plant.

Located in central Hungary, the plant currently generates 40 percent of the country’s electricity supply. The project is expected to cost $12.4 billion. According to reports, Russia will finance most of the project with a $10 billion loan, while Hungary will pay for the rest.

The foreign minister expects the two new units to be operational by 2030.

“This will ensure the long-term security of Hungary’s energy supply, protect the Hungarian people from extreme price fluctuations on the international energy market, and maintain our efforts to reduce the cost of electricity,” Szijjarto said.

Despite the war in Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has irked other European leaders by maintaining a close relationship with the Kremlin. Most recently, he sought to water down some sanctions against Russia.