FM: Without a big increase in nuclear capacity, the EU’s energy security will not improve

The foreign minister said Europe was living through “the greatest economic, security and energy crises” of the past decades.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that in the absence of a big increase in nuclear capacity, the European Union’s competitiveness and energy security will not improve and its climate goals will not be met.

Minister Szijjártó told the General Assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Monday that Europe was living through “the greatest economic, security and energy crises” of the past decades, and the only way to improve its competitiveness, guarantee energy security and maintain its ambitions in environmental protection was to boost nuclear capacity, so producing large amounts of energy cheaply and safely. He said the annual output of the world’s 440 nuclear plants was equal to 180 billion cubic meters of natural gas consumption. “If we really want to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we must at least double capacities,” he said. “Otherwise, Europe clearly will not be able to maintain competitiveness and achieve its climate goals.” So it’s necessary to end the ideological and political debates on the use of nuclear energy, to put a stop to ideological and political attacks on nuclear energy, eliminate discrimination, and create a level playing field, he said.

The foreign minister said Hungary had gladly signed the letter on the “undoubted” advantages of nuclear energy the IAEA’s director general sent to this year’s UN COP28 climate conference. Briefing the assembly on the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant, Minister Szijjártó said determining a country’s energy mix was a “physical” issue rather than a political one. He said Hungary regarded energy supplies as an issue of national sovereignty and any obstruction of “our nuclear investments is an attack on our sovereignty”. Hungary, he added, would “never support EU sanctions that may harm its nuclear cooperation with Russia, as this would undermine national interests”. Hungary’s recent efforts to improve competitiveness and create a manufacturing hub for Eastern and Western investors had increased demand for electricity, Minister Szijjártó said. Besides building two new blocks in Paks, Hungary is also prolonging the life cycle of the existing four by 20 years, he noted, guaranteeing environmental protection and ensuring sufficient energy for the country’s growing economy. Fully 65% of Hungary’s energy production is carbon neutral and 80% of that is provided by the Paks plant, he said, adding that the aim was to raise that ratio to 90% by 2030 and to full carbon neutrality by 2050. The two new blocks, expected to prevent the annual emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, were key to that process, he said. Besides Russia’s Rosatom, US, German and French companies are active in the project, using cutting-edge technology amid the strictest security measures, Minister Szijjártó said.