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Final licence for €12.5bn expansion of Paks power plant could be issued by September 2021

Paks II, the project company in charge of the expansion of Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant, will submit the application for a final license to the National Atomic Energy Office (OAH) by June 30, a Hungarian official announced on June 26.

The nuclear authority has 15 months to evaluate the application, and if it finds no deficiencies in the document, the license could be issued in September 2021, Janos Suli, the minister without portfolio in charge of the upgrade, said on Friday. 

Hungary picked Russian state nuclear company Rosatom without a tender to build two 1,200 Mw reactors from €12.5bn in 2014. 

Construction was to start in 2017, but a protracted European Commission probe and lengthy examination by local authorities concerning safety delayed the project by years. The agreement set 2023 as the deadline for the first block to go operational. Last year Suli acknowledged that this could be achieved in 2029.

The government says the project is essential to guarantee the security of supply for Hungary's energy needs, as two blocks at the nuclear power plant with a combined 1,000Mw capacity will reach maturity by the early 2030s and will be phased out.

Paks produced a record 16.3TWh of electricity in 2019. The four blocks of the nuclear plant, each with 500Mw accounted for nearly half of gross electricity generated in the country.

The European Commission in April allowed groundwork at the site to start early in 2021 before the permit is awarded. The implementation license certifies that the new blocks meet all relevant safety requirements. The documentation, including attachments, is 283,000 pages long.

Hungary has so far drawn down €239mn of a €10bn loan for the upgrade, but the bulk of that money has already been repaid. The standby fee reached €2mn.