Hungary: Greenpeace, Energiaklub seek for NPP Paks upgrade environmental permit annulment

14. June 2017. / SEE Energy News

Hungarian environmental organizations Greenpeace Magyarorszag and Energiaklub said that they have asked the court to withdraw the environmental protection permit awarded for the planned upgrade of the country’s sole nuclear power plant Paks.

The two organizations said that the Pest County Government Office had turned down their earlier appeal against the project’s environmental permit, but they insist that a number of crucial issues around the planned project, such as the handling of radioactive waste and protecting residents, as well as contingency plans for acts of terrorism, sabotage or war were still unresolved. They also suggested that there were no guarantees that the plant, complete with two new blocks, would not overheat the Danube river, whose water is used in the plant’s cooling system. The permit also fails to address a number of questions sufficiently, such as the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel rods. The environmental protection permit for the upgrade of NPP Paks came into force in March 2017.

On 14 January 2014, Hungarian Government has signed deal with Russia`s atomic energy corporation – Rosatom, with a goal to increase output of the power plant, from current 2,000 MW to 4,400 MW by adding two more reactors. Under the agreement, Russia will provide 10 billion euros loan for the construction of new unit in existing NPP, which is around 80% of estimated construction cost. First unit is expected to become operational in 2023.

However, In mid-January 2016, the European Commission released a report in which it states that Hungary has failed to provide sufficient information to support its argument that the agreement for the expansion of NPP Paks will not provide the company unfair economic advantage.

In early March 2017, The European Commission has granted its approval to the Hungarian state providing a subsidy for the project of the expansion of NPP Paks. The EC said that according to the agreement to avoid overcompensation of the operator of NPP Paks, any potential profits earned by the two new reactors will be either used to pay back Hungary for its investments or to cover normal costs of the plant’s operation. Profits cannot be used to reinvest in the construction or acquisition of additional generation capacity. To avoid market concentration, new reactors will be functionally and legally separated from NPP Paks operator (MVM Group) and any of its successors or other state-owned energy companies. In order to ensure market liquidity, Hungary also agreed that NPP Paks II will sell at least 30 % of produced electricity on the open power exchange. The rest of plant’s electricity output will be sold by the company on objective, transparent and nondiscriminatory terms by way of auctions.

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