Minister for National Development Miklós Seszták submitted a bill on Monday which, if approved by parliament, will classify as state secrets for 15 years all documents pertaining to the construction and financing of two new reactors at the Paks Atomic Power Plant in southern Hungary. The bill includes provisions which allow for engineers not belonging to the Hungarian Chamber of Engineers to work on construction, as well as any judicial decision – even Russian – to become applicable to planning frameworks.
The bill cites the “national security interests” of Hungary as a reason for increased secrecy during implementation. According to the text, the identities of designers, architects and contractors are not to be disclosed for 15 years except in those cases when Hungarian courts or state authorities request information.
The bill also proposes to raise the average salary of Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (OAH) employees and would allow for the hiring and training of top field experts at market-based salaries. Any lawsuits arising during any stage of the construction project are to be adjudicated in an expedited manner for the sake of “efficiency.”
The project would also be exempt from the 2013 act prohibiting contractors with so-called “chain debt” from working on the state project, Paks II being an “international project of extraordinary importance.”
Bernadett Szél, co-chair of Green-leftist Politics Can Be Different (LMP) told ATV’s Olga Kálmán that the secrecy surrounding the project and the Russian loan is “intolerable”. According to Szél, in its current form the bill theoretically makes it possible for the government to spend the proceeds of the HUF 3 trillion Paks II development loan on whatever it likes.
“There is a passage in the bill which effectively overrules the requirement of purpose limitation in the case of the loan.” Szél said. “Now we interpret this to mean the money we are getting from the Russians could end up anywhere.”
The politician also said that almost half of the project money would go to establish a nuclear waste container in Boda, north-west Hungary, despite earlier claims that the contract obliges Russia to transfer spent fuel rods to Russia for safe storage and disposal. Szél added that the circumstances of the project are so secretive the government basically classifies every data after she requests it.
In January 2014 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a framework agreement at the presidential palace in Moscow providing for the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation to build two reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant, and for Russia to finance 80 percent of the total cost of this in the form of a HUF 3 trillion (USD 13.6 billion) loan.
The agreement came under attack from nearly every corner of society. Oppostion leaders called it “treason” and tantamount to “selling Hungary to Russia.”
The size of the loan led many to speculate that its real purpose was to shore up Hungary’s public finances with a HUF 3 trillion revolving line of credit in the guise of a project loan.
At the end of 2010 the government of Hungary confiscated HUF 3 trillion (USD 13.6 billion) worth of private pension funds. The following year the Hungarian state spent USD 2.7 billion, or 20 percent, acquiring Surgutneftehaz’s 21.2 percent stake in MOL Nyrt. By the end of 2013 the balance of the money was gone, having been used to pay off debt and plug holes in Hungary’s national budget.
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