Hungary’s parliament is to discuss the Russian atomic energy deal this week.
On Friday, January 31, Minister of the National Economy Mihaly Varga (Fidesz) submitted draft legislation regarding the expansion of the Paks nuclear reactors. Dubbed the “Agreement between Hungary’s government and the government of the Russian Federation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy”, the bill is expected to debated by parliament this week.
In mid-January Hungarians learned from the Russian state news agency that Prime Minister Viktor Orban had signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin according to which two new nuclear power plants are to be built by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, or Rosatom for short at an estimated cost of EUR 10-12 billion.
According to Fidesz MP and State Secretary Janos Lazar, the expansion will be paid for with a EUR 10-12 billion loan from the Russian government. News of the agreement sparked outcry on behalf of the Hungarian public and raised concerns within the European Commission.
Hungarian energy expert Balazs Felsmann says the plans to expand the nuclear reactors makes no sense at this time. His opinion is shared by a number of economic experts, including the director of the Institute for Economic Research. And yet the government steadfastly refuses to release feasibility studies or make government experts available to the Hungarian press for questioning.
MEP and MOMA chairman Lajos believes nuclear energy offers Hungary the best solution for energy production in the future, but has criticised the manner in which the agreement was made, that is, without a competitive public tender, without public discourse, and without a parliamentary debate.
Energiaklub, a Hungarian energy policy think-tank, requested feasibility studies from the Ministry of National Development supporting the decision to build additional nuclear reactors. The Ministry denied the request on grounds that the documents have been classified for 10 years. Energiaklub made a similar request to the Office of the Prime Minister, but to no avail.
The bill submitted on Friday offers no information regarding the actual cost, capacity, or completion date of the new reactors. Nor does it make any mention of a Russian loan. Instead, the bill provides for the following:
- Both reactors are to produce at least 1000 MW of electricity and will be built the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom).
- A Hungarian state-owned corporation will be responsible for operating the reactors.
- Nuclear waste generated at the plant is to be transported to Russia for storage or reprocessing. After twenty years, the waste will be sent back to Hungary.
- Both parties will do everything to ensure that at least 40% of the reactors construction will be carried out by Hungarian sub-contractors.
- Security for the reactors is to be Hungary’s responsibility. Both parties are free to review the pricing for the services provided at the reactor.
- No state secrets may be shared by either party.
- Hungary may not further refine the nuclear material provided by the Russians and may not use the nuclear material for military purposes.
- Either party may withdraw from the contract in writing in which case the agreement becomes void within one year. In the event that either party terminates the contract the clauses concerning the handling of the nuclear waste will remain in effect.
Referenced in this article:
A Magyarország Kormánya és az Oroszországi Föderáció Kormánya közötti nukleáris energia békés célú felhasználása terén folytatandó együttműködésről szóló Egyezmény kihirdetéséről, parlament.hu; 31 January 2014