Hungary must think long-term about the security of its electricity supply, Attila Steiner, the state secretary for energy policy, told lawmakers on Thursday, introducing a bill on extending the lifespan of the existing blocks of the Paks nuclear power plant. According to the bill’s justification, the extended operating permits of the plant’s four blocks are set to expire between 2032 and 2037. From a technical point of view, it is possible that their lifespans can be extended by another 20 years, it adds. The severe price increases caused by the war in Ukraine and Brussels’s flawed sanctions policy, along with energy shortages in Europe, have made the role of power plants like the nuclear plant in Paks even more important, Steiner said. The Paks plant has for decades provided a safe, reliable and cost-efficient way to produce electricity domestically, he said. The extension of the blocks’ lifespans will follow a long preparatory procedure which also includes talks with the governments of neighbouring countries, gathering information from international partners and signing a cooperation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he added. Concerning the safety aspects of the extension, Steiner said all the nuclear licencing procedures will be carried out by the National Atomic Energy Authority (OAH). OAH will inspect each block to determine whether their lifespans can be extended, he added.
Commenting on the bill, Rebeka Szabó, co-leader of opposition Párbeszéd, said the proposal was “an open admission” that the project to expand the Paks plant was failing. Addressing a press conference, Szabó criticised the government for extending the lifespans of the plant’s existing blocks instead of investing in renewable energy. Bence Tordai, the party’s other co-leader, said the existing four blocks and the planned two new ones would not be able to operate simultaneously, suggesting that the Danube’s water was already getting too warm during the summer to cool the plant’s reactors.