Sanctions mustn't restrict Hungary's energy supply, minister says

Szijjarto: German agency blocking tech for new Paks blocks

Germany's export agency has not yet given its approval for the export of control technology for the new blocks of the Paks nuclear power station, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, told the Atomexpo forum in Sochi on Monday.

“Some countries and authorities” in Europe were “outdoing Brussels” in putting up obstacles in the way of Hungarian endeavours, the foreign ministry said in a statement quoting Szijjarto. He said a country’s ability to produce most of its energy needs determined its security, and Hungary, which lacked its own resources, needed nuclear energy. The two new blocks planned for Paks “will more than double the current capacity”, the minister noted.

“The plan and the goal remains to finish the two new blocks by 2030. In effect, the only factors are external,” he added.

“We’ve managed to avoid sanctions [on nuclear energy] so far, and made it clear during debates concerning each of the eight packages that nuclear energy must not be included.”

While the Germans are foot-dragging, the relevant French consortium has already issued the relevant approvals, he added.

“I honestly hope that not a single European country will hinder this investment project. We must see that the security of energy supplies is now a matter of national security and national strategy, and even a matter of sovereignty,” he said.

“We’re asking everyone — all European Union institutions, European banks and European governments — to respect the fact that there are no sanctions on nuclear energy, and not to hinder Hungary’s nuclear investment project, which is critically important from the point of the security and affordability of long-term energy supplies,” he added.

Szijjarto said some “purportedly green” NGOs which were well organised and seriously financed considered it their mission “to thwart nuclear projects”.

Their stance, he said, clashed with common sense and hindered the security and affordability of long-term energy supplies while undermining green targets.

The operation of the Paks plant means 14.5 million fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted each year, he said. The plant’s expansion will result in savings of another 17 million tonnes of emissions, plus around 4 billion cubic metres less natural gas will need to be consumed, he added.

The minister insisted that nuclear energy was the cheapest, most reliable, greenest and safest way of producing energy, and people of denied this did so purely for “ideological-political reasons”.

Szijjarto noted he held talks with Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and they reviewed the upgrade of the Paks plant, which, he added, was “progressing well”. Excavation work is proceeding as planned, and production of two “especially important” pieces of equipment are under way in Russia, he added.

Sanctions mustn’t restrict Hungary’s energy supply

Hungary’s energy supply security cannot be restricted by any kinds of sanctions, the minister told the forum, adding that determining the country’s energy mix was a national competence. Hungary’s energy mix being a strictly national issue is the number one fundamental principle of the country’s energy strategy.

Another principle is enabling investments needed to ensure energy security, he said, adding this meant that in the absence of resources of its own, Hungary opted to expand nuclear capacities. Any measure that would hamper this would be an attack on Hungary’s national sovereignty, he said.

Szijjarto mentioned energy diversification as another important goal. He added, however, that there was a disagreement as to the definition of diversification, which Hungary believed meant having as many energy sources available as possible, rather than the exclusion of certain sources.

Hungary’s government considers carbon neutrality a practical issue rather than an ideological one, the minister said, insisting that certain European political movements had “expropriated” the matter which he said should primarily be about environmental protection.

Szijjarto said nuclear plants were the most reliable, cheapest and most eco-friendly means of producing energy, arguing that the upgrade of Hungary’s nuclear plant in Paks will prevent the emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the government’s scheme to keep household utility bills low put Hungary in a “unique position” in Europe. Since 2013, the government has been allocating a significant amount of resources towards cutting utility prices, so the current price increases weigh heavily on the state budget, he said.

Europe’s energy market was experiencing a “golden age” up until the first half of 2021 thanks in large part to a combination of advanced Western technologies and cheap Russian energy sources, Szijjarto said. But the necessary infrastructure upgrades had not been carried out, he added.

Hungary, on the other hand, “did its homework” and signed long-term energy supply agreements, linked its energy grid with those of six of its seven neighbouring countries and approved the upgrade of its nuclear plant, Szijjarto said.

The unpredictability of the international energy market means countries must be as self-sufficient as possible, which in Hungary’s case can only be guaranteed by nuclear energy, he said.

Hungary is also investing in solar energy, which, together with the expansion of nuclear capacities, will allow for 90 percent of the electricity consumed to be generated domestically by 2030, the minister said.

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