FM: Amended construction contract for Paks upgrade signed

The foreign minister said the Paks upgrade is a major international project that is not subject to any sanctions, with both Rosatom and Hungary cooperating with several Western companies.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said on Friday that the amended construction contract for the upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant has been signed, marking the end of the project’s preparatory phase and paving the way for the start of construction works.

The signing of the contract is an important milestone in the construction of the new reactor blocks, Minister Szijjártó said after a video call with Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom’s chief executive, and a meeting with Alexander Merten, the deputy head of ASE, the Rosatom unit that is the general contractor for the project. The signing of the new construction contract was made possible by the modified financing contract’s entry into force on August 16, Minister Szijjártó told a joint press conference with Merten. There are several provisions in the new contract that will speed up and facilitate progress in the project in the coming period, the minister said. Work on the diaphragm wall is ongoing, with 467 metres of it already built, and groundwork for block six is set to get underway, he said, adding that ground consolidation work was set to start in the autumn. The signing of the new construction contract and the transition to the project’s construction phase will make it possible to pour the first concrete by the end of next year and reach another key milestone, Szijjártó said. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said the project’s financial transactions were ongoing for which the necessary contract modifications were completed. The Paks upgrade is a major international project that is not subject to any sanctions, with both Rosatom and Hungary cooperating with several Western companies, he said.

Minister Szijjártó said Europe would not impose any sanctions on the nuclear industry in the future either, emphasising that Hungary would never support such a step, as it would go against its national interests. Energy security is one of the most critical issues today, he said, adding that the countries that can produce as much of their own energy as possible would be the most secure in the future. In Hungary’s case, nuclear power plants are the only way to produce large amounts of energy, Szijjártó said, adding that nuclear energy was a safe, environmentally friendly and cheap way to produce electricity. The upgrade of the Paks plant is therefore a long-term guarantee of affordable energy in Hungary, the minister said. Hungary, therefore, views any attacks against or moves aimed at blocking the project as attempted violations of its sovereignty, he added.

In other news, the minister said Serbia will ensure the transit of gas supplies to Hungary if Ukraine should terminate its earlier agreement under which Russian gas is supplied to Hungary via Ukraine. Minister Szijjártó noted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s talks with the leaders of Turkmenistan, Serbia, the Bosnian Serb Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey during the day, and pointed to the importance of close cooperation with central Asia and the Western Balkans. Those ties largely contribute to Hungary’s security from multiple aspects, he added. “We are in great need of that security when crises overshadow the everyday life of European countries … close cooperation with countries of Central Asia and the Western Balkans will help us cope with the ramifications of those crises,” he said. Szijjártó stressed that “a fair cooperation with Russia concerning natural gas supplies will help ensure Hungary’s energy security.” Those supplies largely reach Hungary via Ukraine, but “reports in these days suggest that Ukraine wants to terminate its transit agreement with Russia,” he said. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who is on a working visit to Hungary, has “made it clear that if Hungary wishes to increase gas imports through Serbia, they will ensure the necessary shipping capacities,” Szijjártó said. “Once again, it has been proven that construction of the Turk Stream pipeline had been a decision of strategic importance,” Szijjártó said. Szijjártó also noted Turkmenistan’s “political decision” to make Hungary “a destination of possible gas shipments to Europe”. “A political agreement has been signed and now it is up to the companies to negotiate a trade deal,” he added.