Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), and Zsolt Semjén, the Hungarian deputy prime minister, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that includes collaboration between the two countries on designing small nuclear power plants as well as an €85 million ($90 million) investment by Hungarian banks in Iran. Reuters reported that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán's chief of staff, Janos Lazar, had told a news conference on 6 April the MOU concerned establishment of a small nuclear reactor for scientific-educational purposes. He added that this cooperation had first been agreed during a visit by Orbán to Iran in 2015.
|Semjén (left) and Salehi shake on the MOU (Image: AEOI)
Salehi and Semjén briefed reporters in Tehran on 8 April, following signing of the MOU that day. According to Tasnim news agency, Salehi said the AEOI "hopes to see extensive use of small nuclear power plants in Iran". He added that economic ties between Iran and Hungary had declined in recent years but they aimed to return them to their previous level following the entry in force of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016. The JCPOA, the international agreement limiting Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA - also referred to as the P5+1 - plus the European Union).
The Hungarian Foreign Ministry said last week that several agreements had been concluded at the first session of the Hungarian-Iranian Joint Economic Committee. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said Eximbank had established an €85 million credit line to facilitate cooperation between Hungarian and Iranian businesses, and to finance export-import transactions and the founding of joint ventures.
"Now that the European Union has authorised negotiations, we can immediately begin talks on an investment protection agreement, Eximbank will begin developing direct, inter-bank cooperation and we also agreed that the Iranian import licencing authority will be paying special attention to Hungarian products and technologies," the minister told reporters in Budapest last week, according to a ministry statement.
Annual trade between the two countries used to total about $350 million, but this dropped to roughly a tenth of that during the period of economic sanctions against Iran and now stands at some $30 million, Szijjártó said.
"The two countries will also be tightening their cooperation on energy, creating the opportunity for Hungarian enterprises to also become involved in the development of Iran's energy infrastructure," he said, adding that Iran has "the world's second most significant natural gas reserves and fourth largest oil reserves".
On cooperation in science and education, Szijjártó said some 1400 Iranian students are studying at universities in Hungary and there are plans to offer scholarships to 100 more students.
The AEOI said Hungary had useful experience in Russian-designed VVER nuclear reactor technology. According to the AEOI statement, Semjén said all agreements signed between the two countries were in line with EU regulations, and that the MOU was based on international laws and regulations.
Szijjártó and Salehi held talks in Budapest in February last year on further cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Szijjártó said the two countries would "continue and expand" the training of Iranian nuclear experts as well as establish research and scientific cooperation in the use of nuclear energy.
Salehi proposed a project with Hungary to design and develop a 25 MWe reactor and another reactor of up to 100 MWe, which could be sold across Asia and Africa while being built in the Islamic republic. Salehi told reporters then that small reactors would be more affordable to poorer countries and need less cooling water. Iran plans to build two more Russian-designed large reactors in addition to its current single reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. On completion of this project, which Salehi said could take ten years, Iran would look at building small reactors.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News