March 19, 2019 / 12:01 PM / a month ago

Hungary will not hasten nuclear plant clearance process - minister

BUDAPEST, March 19 (Reuters) - Hungary has no target date to submit its application for the construction permit of new reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant as Budapest aims to minimise any potential safety risks, the minister in charge of the project said on Tuesday.

Hungary awarded Russia’s state-owned Rosatom a contract to build two new reactors at its only nuclear power plant in Paks, but construction has faced long delays, partly due to a European Union review of the project, including the way it was funded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in September that Rosatom would start building the two VVER 1200 reactors “soon”, but the latest comments by Hungarian minister Janos Suli cast doubt over that optimism about the 12.5-billion-euro project.

“If anybody were to ask me for a deadline for submitting this planning documentation, I would say we will submit it when we are convinced that it can be submitted and that it will be approved,” Suli told a conference.

“It is clear that wherever you need to meet complex safety requirements, haste always comes at a big cost.”

Suli said the required documentation would have to be handed over to Hungary’s Atomic Energy Authority, which plans to involve about 100 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency in the assessment of the 300,000-page document.

The panel will have 15 months to deliver a verdict.

Suli said 150 engineers were working at the Paks nuclear plant, which accounts for half of Hungary’s power capacity and meets a third of consumption, on pre-screening the planning documentation submitted by Rosatom.

“You can see examples of all sorts in the world: of a power plant not being built, or a plant half-finished,” Suli said, citing examples in Finland.

He said in one case the national regulator rejected Russian plans for a reactor in Finland as it did not reflect European requirements.

“We do not want to commit the same mistake,” Suli said. (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Alison Williams)

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