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Could the EU block or delay Hungary’s new nuclear power station?

Hungary Coal Power Plant

In this week’s Gossage Gossip, Mr Gossage examines the possibility that the European Union could be the new blocker to a new nuclear power station in Hungary, despite France offering to lend a helping hand.

Hungary is seeking to build a new nuclear power station at Paks, financed with a Russian loan and built by Russia’s state-run nuclear company, Rosatom. But the project has been seriously delayed after the German government – hostile to nuclear power – opposed Siemens’ participation in building the plant’s electronic control unit. Now, France’s Framatome could step in to help finalise the project and deliver the missing bits.

Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, reportedly discussed this tie-up with France’s Emmanuel Macron during his visit to the Elysée last month. At the time, the Hungarian Government formally stated that Paris and Budapest would further expand Hungarian-French nuclear cooperation and further increase the role of Framatome, the French equivalent of Rosatom, in the Paks investments – all so that Germany can no longer block construction.

But while Berlin may no longer be able to block construction of the new power plant, Brussels could – and almost certainly will. The changes to the original plans are so significant that Hungary and Russia are having to renegotiate their contract. A spokesperson for Orbán admitted that any new contract will have to be approved by the European Commission, and warned Brussels not to “jeopardise” Hungary’s electricity plans.  

Given that the European Commission’s latest drive to penalise Russia for invading Ukraine is to seek to deliberately damage the finances of Rosatom, and given that Orbán has been deliberately breaching a series of other trade embargos with Russia, then I rather suspect that the bureaucrats in Brussels will want to undertake a meticulously thorough examination of the entire project in great detail, all of which may well take a very, very long time.  

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