Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said nuclear plants were the most reliable, cheapest and most eco-friendly means of producing energy, arguing that the upgrade of Hungary’s nuclear plant in Paks will prevent the emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
Meanwhile, the minister said that the government’s scheme to keep household utility bills low put Hungary in a “unique position” in Europe. Since 2013, the government has been allocating a significant amount of resources towards cutting utility prices, so the current price increases weigh heavily on the state budget, he said. Europe’s energy market had been experiencing a “golden age” up until the first half of 2021, thanks in large part to a combination of advanced Western technologies and cheap Russian energy sources, Szijjártó said. But the necessary infrastructure upgrades had not been carried out, he added. Hungary, on the other hand, “did its homework” and signed long-term energy supply agreements, linked its energy grid with those of six of its seven neighbouring countries and approved the upgrade of its nuclear plant, Szijjártó said. The unpredictability of the international energy market means countries must be as self-sufficient as possible, which in Hungary’s case can only be guaranteed by nuclear energy, he said. Hungary is also investing in solar energy, which, together with the expansion of nuclear capacities, will allow for 90% of the electricity consumed to be generated domestically by 2030, the minister said.
Meanwhile, Szijjártó noted that Germany’s export agency has not yet given its approval for the export of control technology for the new blocks of the Paks nuclear power station. “Some countries and authorities” in Europe were “outdoing Brussels” in putting up obstacles in the way of Hungarian endeavours, he added. “The plan and the goal remains to finish the two new blocks by 2030. In effect, the only factors are external,” he added. “We’ve managed to avoid sanctions [on nuclear energy] so far, and made it clear during debates concerning each of the eight packages that nuclear energy must not be included.” While the Germans are foot-dragging, the relevant French consortium has already issued the relevant approvals, he added.
“I honestly hope that not a single European country will hinder this investment project. We must see that the security of energy supplies is now a matter of national security and national strategy, and even a matter of sovereignty,” he said. “We’re asking everyone — all European Union institutions, European banks and European governments — to respect the fact that there are no sanctions on nuclear energy, and not to hinder Hungary’s nuclear investment project, which is critically important from the point of the security and affordability of long-term energy supplies,” he added.
Szijjártó said some “purportedly green” NGOs which were well organised and seriously financed considered it their mission “to thwart nuclear projects”. Their stance, he said, clashed with common sense and hindered the security and affordability of long-term energy supplies while undermining green targets. The operation of the Paks plant means 14.5 million fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted each year, he said. The plant’s expansion will result in savings of another 17 million tonnes of emissions, plus around 4 billion cubic metres less natural gas will need to be consumed, he added.
Szijjártó noted he held talks with Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and they reviewed the upgrade of the Paks plant, which, he added, was “progressing well”. Excavation work is proceeding as planned, and production of two “especially important” pieces of equipment are under way in Russia, he added.