Szijjarto: Paks power plant upgrade progressing on schedule

The upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, a key investment to guaranteeing Hungary's energy security, environmental protection and competitiveness, is progressing on schedule, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said in Vienna on Monday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Peter Szijjarto said the production of nuclear energy was “mired in political and ideological debate”. A professional approach is long overdue, he added.

“Nuclear energy is the solution to safely producing large quantities of electricity at competitive prices while protecting the environment,” he said.

The Paks upgrade will prevent the emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, he said.

In Vienna, Szijjarto met Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev and reviewed the progress of the upgrade with him. Digging is under way in the place of the new blocks, he said, adding “we will be able to connect the two new reactors to the network by 2030.”

Hungary is in constant contact with Rosatom on the investment. “I told them that we had reports on certain European Union member states keeping sanctions against the nuclear industry on the agenda,” he said.

“That would be going against Hungarian national interests, and we will naturally veto such a proposal, should it ever be tabled … The Paks project remains an international project, with US, German and French companies involved besides Rosatom,” Szijjarto said.

Big nuclear capacity increases key to EU competitiveness

In the absence of a big increase in nuclear capacity, the European Union’s competitiveness and energy security will not improve and its climate goals will not be met, Szijjarto told the general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Monday. He said Europe was living through “the greatest economic, security and energy crises” of the past decades, and the only way to improve its competitiveness, guarantee energy security and maintain its ambitions in environmental protection was to boost nuclear capacity, so producing large amounts of energy cheaply and safely.

He said annual output of the world’s 440 nuclear plants was equal to 180 billion cubic meters of natural gas consumption.

“If we really want to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we must at least double capacities,” he said. “Otherwise, Europe clearly will not be able to maintain competitiveness and achieve its climate goals.”

So it’s necessary to end the ideological and political debates on the use of nuclear energy, to put a stop to ideological and political attacks on nuclear energy, eliminate discrimination, and create a level playing field, he said.

Hungary, he said, had gladly signed the letter on the “undoubted” advantages of nuclear energy the IAEA’s director general sent to this year’s UN COP28 climate conference.

Briefing the assembly on the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant, Szijjarto said determining a country’s energy mix was a “physical” issue rather than a political one.

He said Hungary regarded energy supplies as an issue of national sovereignty and any obstruction of “our nuclear investments is an attack on our sovereignty”.

Hungary, he added, would “never support EU sanctions that may harm its nuclear cooperation with Russia, as this would undermine national interests”.

Hungary’s recent efforts to improve competitiveness and create a manufacturing hub for Eastern and Western investors had increased demand for electricity, Szijjarto said.

Besides building two new blocks in Paks, Hungary is also prolonging the life cycle of the existing four by 20 years, he noted, guaranteeing environmental protection and ensuring sufficient energy for the country’s growing economy.

Fully 65 percent of Hungary’s energy production is carbon neutral and 80 percent of that is provided by the Paks plant, he said, adding that the aim was to raise that ratio to 90 percent by 2030 and to full carbon neutrality by 2050. The two new blocks, expected to prevent the annual emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, were key to that process, he said.

Besides Russia’s Rosatom, US, German and French companies are active in the project, using cutting-edge technology amid the strictest security measures, Szijjarto said.


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