By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
The project was awarded without a tender to Rosatom, underscoring warm ties between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Orban rejected opposition calls to suspend or scrap adding the two reactors to the four already operating at Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks, outside Budapest.
The Hungarian Nuclear Energy Authority said the existing Russian-built 2-gigawatt plant at Paks can be expanded with two new reactors, pending further licenses.
Critics say the project should not go ahead partly because Russia invaded Ukraine.
Opposition parties are also concerned about the costs of Moscow’s influence over nuclear energy in Hungary and Europe.
However, Russia’s nuclear industry has not yet been subjected to European Union sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and Orban says his nation needs the extra energy.
He has been reluctant and, in some cases, refused sanctions against Russia, often citing his nation’s dependency on Russian energy supplies.
The 2014 deal to build the two 1,200MW reactors in Paks, 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Budapest, will more than double the plant’s capacity, authorities say.
Built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary’s communist period, the plant provides about 40 percent of its electricity needs. “In this manner, we will ensure Hungary’s energy security in the long term and protect Hungarians from wild swings in energy prices,” argued Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.
He added that the nuclear reactors could be ready for service by 2030. Russia is financing most of the 12.5 billion euro ($12.4 billion) project by providing a 10 billion euro loan, with Hungary paying the rest.
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