Hungary will not back any measure that would directly or indirectly endanger the project to expand the Paks nuclear power plant, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, said on Monday on the sidelines of the plenary session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Assembly in Vienna.
With Europe heading towards recession, serious energy problems threaten to overwhelm it, the minister told journalists, referring to skyrocketing energy prices and disruption to East-West supply chains. Without nuclear inputs, energy would be neither secure nor affordable, he said, adding that nuclear energy capacity was tantamount to “our sovereignty”.
The minister noted Hungary’s 40 years-plus of “positive” experiences in the use of nuclear energy, calling it “cheap and sustainable”.
The first package of European Union sanctions left nuclear power untouched, Szijjártó noted. He added, however, that there were now “regrettable” moves afoot in the EU to place various obstacles in front of nuclear investments.
Szijjártó said the government would take any measure by the EU and its institutions that hindered the Paks expansion as “an attack on our sovereignty”, adding that secure energy supplies were “a matter of sovereignty”.
The minister said the two new Paks reactors would meet the highest safety standards, adding that the international project led by Rosatom also involves American, French and German companies as subcontractors.
Now that the final construction permit has been awarded, it is anticipated that the first concrete foundations will be set in autumn of next year and the plant would come online in 2030, Szijjártó said. Hungary will then avoid emitting 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, he added.
“The energy mix falls under our national powers, so we have the right to build the power plant,” the minister said. In the absence of EU sanctions on nuclear energy, hindering such investments would breach EU rules, he added.
Hungary has submitted an application to extend the life of its current nuclear reactors, Szijjártó noted. “Hopefully, EU institutions will assess this objectively rather than ideologically or politically,” he said.
Noting that the EU is drafting a new sanctions package, the minister said Hungary’s “red line” was that it would “never support anything that threatens our energy supply, directly or indirectly”, including sanctions on technical, construction and IT services.
“We’re doing everything possible to complete the nuclear power plant in the shortest time possible and to integrate it into our energy mix and network,” Szijjártó said.
The minister said that Hungary backed IAEA efforts to ensure nuclear equality in Europe free from political interference.
Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, held talks with the chief executive of Rosatom, Aleksey Likhachev, in Vienna on Monday.
Nuclear capacities are especially important amid the current energy supply crisis in Europe, and are a bulwark against irrational and unpredictable changes in the international energy market, the minister said on Facebook, adding that energy defence was therefore a matter of sovereignty.
“Hungary is constructing a new nuclear power plant to guarantee its long-term energy supply, protect its environment, and keep the regulated price regime for household utilities in force,” he said.
Szijjártó and Likhachev discussed steps to be taken in the coming months so that construction of the first concrete structures of the two new blocks of the Paks nuclear power plant can start in autumn next year.
“Several efforts to thwart the project have been made, but we will not yield to pressure. We will upgrade the power plant because we have a right to do so, and this lies in our interest,” the minister said.