The proposed plan to build two 1200 MW nuclear reactors at Paks in Hungary has come under scrutiny by the European Commission and may be blocked.
Under anti-trust law, the proposed $12bn development is being investigated after some details of the contracts with Russia’s Rosatom were said to be concealed on grounds of national security provoked suspicion among opponents to the project. The anti-trust issue is being described as a possible case of violation of EU law by officials
A veto or prohibitive fine could be in the offing according to the FT with Euratom, the nuclear watchdog, withholding approval for the plant’s fuel supply on technical and financial grounds, although talks are ongoing. All nuclear fuel supply deals by EU member states must receive the green light from the agency.
There is also concern about overdependence by Hungary on Russia for energy. The country already relies on Russia for 80 per cent of its oil and 60 per cent of its gas imports, but Budapest still awarded contracts to design, build and maintain the reactors in December.
Competition investigators from the European Commission are looking at state subsidies and the legality of contracts awarded to Rosatom and its affiliates without a tender.
Hungary’s government is keen to maintain good relations with Russia despite Europe’s stance on sanctions as a result of the Ukrainian crisis.
On an official visit to Budapest last week, Vladimir Putin confirmed that Moscow would finance 80 per cent of the project’s total costs, saying he attached “great importance” to it.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban declared last week that energy policy was a sovereign matter, and appears to be readying to oppose Brussels opposition to the project:
“We will have a major problem . . . I expect an escalating conflict,” he said. According to Hungarian online news agency Portfolio.hu Orbán added that nuclear energy remains "necessary" in Europe and said it was time to admit "the especially inconvenient truth" that competitive energy prices could not be created in the region without having Russia as part of Europe's energy market. The most important factor in the energy sector today is price, he said, and "climate is only second."
Paks currently comprises four Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurized water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987