(MTI) – Lawmakers passed the law on the Paks nuclear plant upgrade in a roll-call vote on Thursday. After a protest by four lawmakers of the opposition LMP party disrupting the session by sounding an alarm through a megaphone, lawmakers reconvened for the vote. The law was passed 256 in favour, 29 against and 2 abstentions.
Governing parties and lawmakers of the radical nationalist Jobbik party voted in favour, Socialist, LMP lawmakers voted against the bill. Lawmakers of the PM party who sit as independents, three independent MPs Jozsef Angyan, Zsolt Endresik and Katalin Szili, and a Jobbik MP Tamas Gaudi-Nagy voted against the agreement.
Lawmakers of the Democratic Coalition (DK) did not attend the vote.
The agreement on the Paks project was signed in Moscow on Jan. 14 in the presence of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The upgrade is set to be financed from a 10-billion-euro Russian loan to be repaid over 21 years at a variable interest rate of 3.95-4.9 percent.
The agreement will involve maintaining and upgrading the output of the Paks nuclear plant, including planning, building and installing two new blocks will 1,000 MW of in-built capacity, which is intended to replace the four existing blocks in the future.
Under the agreement, the Paks nuclear plant will remain in ownership of the Hungarian state. Russia will offer Hungary a loan as part and parcel of the agreement.
Economy Minister Mihaly Varga told public television M1 on Thursday that Hungary has agreed to sign a contract with Russia for a 10 billion euro loan to finance the Paks upgrade with better than current market conditions. The 21-year loan would have a variable interest rate of 3.95-4.9 percent.
Repayments will start by 2025, after a ten-year period required to plan and build the two blocks at Paks, and the loan will mature in 2046. The contract allows for early repayment, Varga said.
He added that the conditions for the loan were “extremely favourable” and that Hungary could not have found such a good deal on the market itself.
Varga told Kossuth radio on Thursday that Hungary may not use up the entire 10 billion euros in the credit line as the actual cost of the upgrade will be shaped by pricing to be determined through tenders.
The government submitted the bill on the Paks agreement to parliament last Friday. Lawmakers discussed the bill on Monday and Tuesday and as no amendments tabled to it were supported by the governing majority, the vote was held on Thursday.
The agreement’s supporters argued that keeping up Paks’s capacity will considerably contribute to economic output. The investment will be one of the most significant infrastructure upgrades in the country since the transition to democracy, its proponents say. It will allow the proportion of Hungarian suppliers in the upgrade to be around 40 percent.
Varga said in support of the upgrade that nuclear energy in Hungary made up 50.7 percent of all domestic output last year, up from 45.9 percent in 2012. The energy generated at Paks has been the cheapest source in Hungary for decades, he said.
The opposition parties have protested against the agreement with Russia. The E14-PM alliance has initiated a referendum to be held raising the question if new nuclear power blocks should be built at a cost of increasing public debt. The Socialists supported the referendum drive and urged expert dialogue on the subject.
Opposition LMP has asked President Ader to call a referendum on relieving Hungary of nuclear energy altogether in the medium term.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party said the government made a mistake by signing the agreement in the campaign period, but called the leftist parties’ reactions “hype” which made genuine professional debate impossible.