Paks II environmental licence decision upheld

21 April 2017

MVM Paks II has received environmental approval to build two new units at the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The company received an environmental licence from the Baranya County Government Office in late September, but this was challenged by Greenpeace Hungary and Energiaklub. The initial licence was then reviewed by Pest County Government Office, which gave statutory approval of the licence on 18 April.

In their appeal, the two groups had argued that issues such as the handling of radioactive waste and protecting residents, as well as contingency plans against acts of terrorism, sabotage or war were still unresolved. They said in a statement on 19 April that there are "no guarantees" the expanded plant would not overheat the river Danube, whose water is used for the Paks plant's cooling system. Pest County Government Office has rejected these arguments and the groups say they plan to take legal action against the decision.

Attila Aszódi, government commissioner for the Paks II project, told Hungary Today that the environmental permit is now valid. He added that, as the project received a site licence from the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority on 30 March, work on obtaining a construction licence can now start. Hungary Today added in its report yesterday that the parliamentary committee for sustainable development has approved the appointment of Paks mayor, János Süli, as minister without portfolio in charge of the Paks expansion project.

Paks currently comprises four Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurised water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987. These units account for about half of Hungary's electricity production. An inter-governmental agreement signed in early 2014 would see Russian enterprises and their international sub-contractors supply two new units at Paks - VVER-1200 reactors - as well as a Russian state loan of up to €10.0 billion ($11.2 billion) to finance 80% of the project.

Aszódi told World Nuclear News on 31 March the target remains for the first new unit to be completed in 2025 and the second in 2026.


The environmental impact assessment procedure began on 19 December 2014, when the Paks II project company applied for an environmental licence.

Aszódi wrote on his blog that the application (environmental impact assessment report) is about 2200 pages long, publicly available and contains all the relevant information about the project such as: the impacts of the discharged cooling water on the Danube river; the radiological impacts of the normal and accidental operation conditions of the plant; the results of the analyses of water and air pollution and the noise and vibration loads; the conventional and radioactive waste management; the effects on the flora and fauna around the plant; as well as the expected social and economic impacts, available at the time of submission.

"Before the public hearing conducted by the competent environmental authority, a number of public forums had been organised by the experts of the Paks II project company and the Office of the Government Commissioner in order to inform the residents of Paks town and the neighbouring 40 settlements about the predictable environmental impacts of the project, and also the ongoing licensing procedure. It was emphasised that this procedure was open to the public concerned and anyone had the right to express their opinion, remarks and questions," Aszódi said.

On 7 May 2015, as part of the procedure, a public hearing was held. In line with the Espoo Convention, an international environmental impact assessment procedure was also carried out.

"As part of the international environmental impact assessment procedure, public hearings and expert consultations were held in nine locations of seven countries, and consultations in written form were carried out with three additional countries," he said.

"Taking into consideration the environmental impact assessment report submitted, the additional clarifying submissions, the comments, opinions and remarks of the public concerned, the governments, authorities and organisations received from [Hungary] and also from the countries that took part in the procedure, the Government Office for Baranya County - as the competent environmental authority - issued the environmental licence for the Paks II project on 29 September 2016 at first instance.

"The case reached the second instance authority because two NGOs (Greenpeace and Energiaklub) had appealed against the decision. The Government Office for Pest County as the second instance authority started its procedure on 23 November 2016 and completed it on 18 April 2017. The second instance authority reviewed the procedure carried out by the first instance authority ... and, with its approval, the environmental licence of the Paks II project became legally binding and enforceable," he said.

The Paks II project is "now entering a new phase", with preparations for a construction licence application, he added.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News