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Hungarian authorities permit using alternative fuel at Russian-built Paks NPP

The country’s only nuclear power plant, Paks, was build by Russia and currently uses nuclear fuel supplied by Russia’s state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom

BUDAPEST, November 24. /TASS/. Hungary’s national parliament supported an amendment, which allows using nuclear fuel from alternative sources for the Russian-built Paks nuclear power plant (NPP), instead of Russian-made fuel.

The country’s only nuclear power plant, Paks, was build by Russia and currently uses nuclear fuel supplied by Russia’s state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom. At the same time, in order to ensure the facility’s long-term safety and functioning, the Hungarian government decided to look for potential alternatives, keeping in mind the European Union’s sanctions against the Russian corporation.

During their session on Thursday evening, lawmakers approved an amendment to the country’s nuclear energy strategy, proposed by the government of the country. The amendment says that "the NPP may use a different, alternative fuel from another company, including during the extended period of its operation."

The Hungarian government plans to extend the service of the Paks NPP. Four of its reactors, build by Soviet specialists some 40 years ago, are to go out of operation between 2032 and 2037, but their life span may be extended by 20 years, to 2052-2057. At the same time, the plant’s units Five and Six are now being built in accordance with Rosatom’s designs.

Until 2022, fuel rods for Paks were delivered to the country via Ukraine, by rail. Following the start of the special military operation, the delivery route had to be changed. Currently, nuclear fuel is being transported via the Black Sea. A ship, escorted by Russian Navy warships, takes fuel rods to the Bulgarian port city of Varna, from where it is delivered to Hungary by rail, via Bulgaria and Romania. As a rule, nuclear power plants have a stockpile of fuel enough for at least two years.

Currently, the country has no alternatives for four VVER-40 active reactors at Paks, and the Hungarian government said on many occasions that it was not going to change its fuel supplier as long as deliveries remain stable.

At the same time, the government is seeking to diversify its energy supplies, in accordance with the European Union’s policies. According to the country’s authorities, this principle applies to nuclear fuel as well.

France operates the biggest number of nuclear reactors in Europe and manufactures nuclear fuel for them importing uranium from Australia, Niger, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. In recent years, the American company Westinghouse, one of the global leaders in nuclear fuel production, has been looking for alternatives to Russian fuel for pressurized water reactors (VVER) operated at nuclear plants in the European Union and Ukraine.

VVER-type reactors were developed in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s and are the most widely used in the world. In particular, the are working in countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The Paks NPP was built with Soviet technologies in the 1980s about 100 kilometers south of Budapest on the banks of the Danube. The four VVER-440 reactors of the Paks NPP provide half of all generated and one third of consumed electricity in Hungary Currently, preparations are underway for the construction of two new power units designed by Rosatom. At the same time, preparations are underway for the construction of facilities as part of the second stage of the Rosatom project. Specifically, those new units are called Paks-2. The Hungarian government expects that after two new VVER-1200 nuclear reactors are commissioned, the plant's capacity will increase from its current levels of 2,000 MW to 4,400 MW.