Paks II construction licence application submitted

01 July 2020

The construction licence application for two VVER-1200 reactors at the existing Paks site was submitted to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) yesterday by Paks II Limited. The regulator said it has 12 months in which to make a decision on the application, but this period can be extended by three months if required.

A visualisation of how the two VVER-1200 units could look adjacent to the existing Paks plant (Image: Paks II Ltd)

The existing Paks plant, which is 100 km south of Budapest, comprises four Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurised water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987. Russia and Hungary signed an inter-governmental agreement in early 2014 for Russian enterprises and their international sub-contractors to supply two VVER-1200 reactors at Paks, including a Russian state loan of up to EUR10.0 billion (USD11.2 billion) to finance 80% of the project, which is known as Paks II.

The electronic submission of the 283,000-page application was announced by János Süli, the minister responsible for the design, construction and commissioning of two new reactors at Paks, and the management of Paks II Limited at a meeting attended by regional mayors and politicians.

"The documentation submitted today details how the units planned for Paks meet every Hungarian and European Union regulation and safety requirements," Süli said.

To describe the scope of the documentation, Süli said that if they had been traditionally arranged in ring binders, stacked on top of each other, the documents would have been taller than a ten-story house, and if laid side by side, would cover 42 basketball courts.

HAEA said that, owing to the complexity of the task of evaluating the application, more than half of its 180 staff members will participate in the project. The regulator also said it will rely on the opinion of external experts and has invited an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Technical Safety Review Mission starting at the end of 2020.

"The goal is to have an independent international expert review in coordination with the IAEA on the Preliminary Safety Analysis Report, which serves as the basis of the construction licence application," HAEA said. "During the review process, the review team will evaluate whether the planned new units at Paks comply with the IAEA safety standards. The report with their findings will be taken into account by HAEA during its decision-making."

In 2014, HAEA issued the site investigation and evaluation licence, and in 2017 the site licence. Under Hungary's nuclear laws, building permit applications for certain site preparation activities can be submitted no earlier than three months after the submission of the construction licence application. These permits cover activities including ground works, excavation of the foundation pit, slurry wall construction, as well as the manufacture of long lead items, such as the reactor pressure vessel.

Süli said groundworks at Paks II can therefore start in early 2021, after obtaining a licence for pre-construction site preparation. The project company is expected to receive the licence for the construction of the main building in September 2021, after which construction work may begin, he said.

"The construction of the two new units is a serious opportunity for the region, a lot of related investments will be made: roads, apartments, factory halls will have to be built, improvements will be implemented in the areas of healthcare, education and many other services," the minister said. "In connection with the investment, we will also implement a complex, coordinated regional development programme in order to develop the region."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News