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Nuclear Power in Hungary

(Updated December 2014)

  • Hungary has four nuclear reactors generating more than one-third of its electricity.
  • Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1982.
  • The Hungarian Parliament has expressed overwhelming support for building two new power reactors, and a contract has been signed for these.

In 2013, total electricity generation in Hungary from 9.4 GWe of capacity was 30.3 billion kWh (gross), of which nuclear accounted for 15.4 billion kWh (51%). Gas accounted for 5.6 billion kWh and coal 6.4 billion kWh. About 11.8 billion kWh (net) was imported, mainly from Slovakia, but also Ukraine. There was significant export to Croatia, and some to Serbia. Electricity consumption in Hungary is growing modestly and in 2012 was 3300 kWh per capita. The government plans to increase the nuclear proportion of electricity to about 60%.

Nuclear generation costs are well below those from other sources in Hungary. In 2007, the price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity from Paks was HUF 9.43 (3.58 Euro cents/kWh).

Operating Hungarian power reactors

Reactor Model Net MWe First power Scheduled close
Paks 1 VVER-440/V-213 470 1982 2032
Paks 2 VVER-440/V-213 473 1984 2034
Paks 3 VVER-440/V-213 473 1986 2016
Paks 4 VVER-440/V-213 473 1987 2017
Total (4)   1889 MWe (2000 MWe gross)  

Nuclear industry development

Hungary's National Atomic Energy Committee (OAB) was set up in 1956 and the country's first research reactor went critical in 1959. An interstate treaty between Hungary and Soviet Union to build a nuclear power plant was signed in 1966 and, in 1967, the Paks site 100 km south of Budapest was chosen. An 880 MWe nuclear plant was ordered in 1971, and construction of the first two units by Atomenergoexport started in 1974, with the second two in 1979. The four VVER-440 reactors (model V-213) started up between 1982 and 1987.

The Paks plant is owned and operated by MVM Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd, which is a subsidiary company of state-owned MVM Hungarian Electricity Ltd (Magyar Villamos Művek, MVM).

Operating lifetime extension

The design lifetime of the reactors is 30 years, so the four units at Paks would have reached the end of their service lifetimes between 2012 and 2017. A feasibility study on extending the operational lifetimes of the units by 20 years carried out in 2000 (and updated in 2005) found no technical or safety objection to a 50-year service life. In November 2005, the Hungarian Parliament overwhelmingly supported a 20-year life extension project for Paks. The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) has approved the lifetime extension program (submitted in November 2008) for all four reactors. In December 2012 it approved a 20-year licence extension for unit 1, and in November 2014 the same for unit 2.

Capacity increase

Though originally 440 MWe gross, the Paks units were upgraded in the 1990s to 470 MWe. An 8% uprate was then carried out between 2002 and 2009 to give 500-510 MWe gross, so that each now has a net capacity of 470 or 473 MWe1. A contract signed in May 2007 with Atomstroyexport relates to this work2, in particular: new design fuel assemblies, modernisation of the in-core monitoring system, the reconstruction of the primary pressure control system, and the modification of the turbine and the turbine control system.

New nuclear power capacity: Paks 5&6

In the 1980s, the government planned to construct two VVER-1000 units as Paks 5&6 (each 950 MWe net). Preparations were almost completed when the project was cancelled in 1989 due to decreased power demand.

In 1996-97, Paks Nuclear Power Plant proposed building a further one or two units of 600-700 MWe capacity – either the Westinghouse AP600 design, the AECL Candu-6, or the Atomstroyexport/Siemens VVER-640. This was later rejected by MVM because it did not fit government policy at that time and the preliminary environmental impact study was not completed.

With the need to build about 6000 MWe of new generating capacity by 2030, new nuclear plant was again considered, and two 1000 MWe units for the Paks site were proposed. In March 2009, the Hungarian Parliament (330 for; 6 against; 10 abstentions) gave preliminary approval to this, though some foreign investment would be needed. Paks expected to issue an invitation to tender in 2012, with a decision in 2013, and the government set up a project company MVM Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd or MVM Paks II as a subsidiary of state-owned MVM in 2012. It was considering five PWR reactor types: Areva's EPR; the Areva-Mitsubishi Atmea1; Atomstroyexport's VVER-1000 or -1200; the Westinghouse AP10003and Korea's APR-1400. It was not keen on first-of-a-kind designs, and hoped to avoid the need for cooling towers. The new units should be capable of load-following.

Rather than proceeding with open tender, in January 2014 the government signed an agreement with Rosatom to build two reactors at Paks, with Russia providing 80% of the finance. The government said that the EU had already approved a draft plan for building the units of up to 1200 MWe each, at a likely cost of around €12 billion. The first unit is to be operational about 2023. Fuel is to be supplied by Russia. In December 2014 MVM Paks II signed three implementation agreements with NIAEP-ASE of Nizhny Novgorod. These formalize the design, procurement and construction parameters for the new units, conditions related to their operation and maintenance support, and details regarding fuel supply and the handling and storage of used nuclear fuel.

A €10 billion financing deal from Russia was agreed in February to cover 80% of the anticipated project cost, with Hungary to repay the loan over 21 years of operation. The interest rate is below 4% for 11 years then 4.5% then 4.95%. In a 256-29 vote the parliament approved the finance deal.

Planned Hungarian power reactors

Reactor Type MWe gross First power
Paks 5 AES2006/ VVER-1200 1200 2023
Paks 6 AES2006/ VVER-1200 1200 after 2025
Total (2)   2400 MWe  

Beyond Paks 5&6, consideration of future options for Hungary involves the so-called Visegrad 4 group countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which are cooperating closely on nuclear power issues, including in research into future reactor designs and infrastructure development.

A nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea was signed in October 2013.

Fuel cycle

Hungary has some uranium resources around the Mecsek deposit in the south of the country, but no present production. The Mecsek underground mine near Pécs operated from 1958 to 1997. Initially ore was shipped to Estonia for milling, but from 1963 it was milled on site and the concentrate was exported to the Soviet Union. A total of about 21,000 tU was produced at an average recovery of 50-60%. Since 1997, the mine has been decommissioned and remediated at considerable expense (about €110 million).

In August 2008, the Australian company Wildhorse Energy Ltd joined with state-owned Mecsekérc to assess the feasibility of restarting uranium mining at Mecsek Hills. This led to an agreement with Mecsekérc and Mecsek‐Öko signed in October 2009 which covered all of the uranium resources in the Mecsek region over some 72 sq kmb. A further joint venture agreement with both government-owned groups was signed early in 2012, bringing Mecsek‐Öko's MML-E licence (the former uranium mine area) together with Wildhorse's Pecs licence to give combined JORC-compliant inferred resource of 30,000 tU at 0.061%U. The company expected to increase this substantially. The government commenced a social, technological, and environmental inquiry into the feasibility of restarting uranium production. However, having completely written off the project, in October 2014 the company cited “lack of progress and high operational costs” as its reason not to proceed and to divest the project.

Wildhorse was also developing an underground coal gasification project nearby at Mecsek Hills, in conjunction with uranium plans. In October 2014 it terminated the project.

All Hungary's nuclear fuel supply is contracted from TVEL in Russia.

2003 Fuel damage incident:

A program to chemically clean partially used fuel was curtailed following an accident, which was rated Level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)c. In 2001, unit 2 at Paks was the first ever reactor to be reloaded with fuel that had been chemically cleaned4; however, in April 2003, at the same unit, 30 fuel assemblies were badly damaged inside a cleaning tank due to insufficient cooling5. The assemblies overheated in the cleaning tank which was submerged in the transfer pond so that most became deformed with burst cladding, releasing a lot of radioactivity into the water, with noble gases into the plant area. Five batches of fuel had been cleaned before the incident, to remove magnetite corrosion products from the steam generators, which impeded coolant flow in the core. Radioactive gases were emitted through the stack for several days, and the reactor was out of service until the end of 2006. In 2014 the damaged fuel was sent to Mayak in Russia for reprocessing.

Radioactive waste management

Although preparations are being made for direct disposal of used fuel without reprocessing, there is no policy decision on reprocessing and it appears unlikely that used nuclear fuel will be reprocessed. In the past, some used fuel has been returned to Russia for reprocessing, but without repatriation of separated fissile materials.

Since 1998, a levy on nuclear power production is paid into the Central Nuclear Financial Fund to pay for storage and disposal of radioactive wastes, including used fuel, and decommissioning.

The state-owned body responsible for all waste management, waste disposal and decommissioning is the Public Limited Company for Radioactive Waste Management (Radioaktív Hulladékokat Kezelő Kft., RHK Kft), formerly the Public Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (PURAM)d.

Under 1995 policy, used fuel is stored in pools at Paks for five years then transferred to an interim (50-year) dry storage facility there.

For low- and intermediate-level wastes, the Püspökszilágy Radioactive Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility (RWTDF) began operation in 1977e. The RWTDF also accepted wastes from Paks until 1996 and the 5040 m3 capacity facility became full in 2005.

Following the decision to construct a new repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes from Paksf, PURAM carried out geological investigations over a decade, and finally focused on a repository site in granite in the south of the country, about 30 km from Pécs. In mid-2005, the residents of Bátaapáti voted to approve construction of a repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes there, and this was approved by Parliament. In December 2006, the government declared the Bátaapáti site an "investment of extraordinary significance", paving the way for accelerated licensing. The €150 million surface facilities of the National Radioactive Waste Repository were opened in October 2008, and construction of underground vaults 200-250 m deep for short-lived intermediate-level wastes allowed operation from December 2012.6 It will eventually accommodate 40,000 cubic metres of wastes.

Paks waste that was sent to RWTDF at Püspökszilágy will eventually be moved to Bátaapáti National Radioactive Waste Repository for final disposal, so that waste disposed at RWTDF will only derive from institutional (i.e. non-power) sources.

For long-lived ILW and high-level wastes, a claystone formation near Buda in the southwest Mecsek Mountains is being investigated, and a preliminary safety analysis has been made for a deep geological repository thereg. It is expected to begin operation after 2060.

Research & development

The Atomic Energy Research Institute (KFK AEKI) operates the Budapest research reactor of 10 MW, which started up in 1959 and was rebuilt in 1991. In 2009, it was converted to operate on low-enriched uranium. The Technical University of Budapest (BUTE) operates a training reactor of 100 kW. A zero-power critical assembly has been decommissioned.

Regulation and safety

Under the amended Atomic Energy Act 1996, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) is responsible for safety policy, safeguards arrangements, licensing, safety, wastes and regulation. The Nuclear Safety Directorate of the HAEA is responsible for the safety of nuclear installations.

Handling of radioactive materials and wastes, together with radiation protection generally, is regulated by the Minster of Health. However, ensuring low levels of release and exposure are among HAEA's responsibilities.

The Hungarian Energy Office advises on tariffs for both grid network and the public service, and these are set by the Minister for Economy & Transport.

Non-proliferation

Hungary is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1969 as a non-nuclear weapons state. It is member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and since May 2004, of Euratom. The Additional Protocol in relation to its safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency came into force in 2000.


Further Information

Notes

a. In 2009, total gross electricity production was 35.9 billion kWh, of which 15.4 billion kWh (43%) was from nuclear. Net nuclear generation in 2009 was 14.6 billion kWh. [Back]

b. WildHorse executed a cooperation agreement with Mecsekérc and Mecsek‐Öko in October 2009 to develop the Mecsek Hills Uranium Project Area, which includes WildHorse’s Pécs uranium licence and the MML‐E licence held by Mecsek‐Öko. The Hungarian state-owned mining agencies Mecsek‐Öko and Mecsekérc hold the mining concession for the areas covering the closed Mecsek uranium mine, which joins the western boundary of the WildHorse Pécs and Abaliget licences, acquired in 2006. The Mecsek Hills Project Area has an exploration target of 41-54,000 tonnes U3O8, with a grade range of 0.08‐0.12% U3O8.

Mecsek‐Öko is responsible for the environmental remediation, reclamation and monitoring works associated with the historic Mecsek uranium industry. Mecsekérc is involved in radioactive waste disposal and various environmental remediation projects, as well as geological, hydrogeological and mineral resource prospecting. [Back]

c. Chemical cleaning of partially used fuel assemblies is only known to have been carried out on used fuel at Paks. The fuel assemblies supplied by Russian manufacturer Mashinostroitelny Zavod (MSZ) had been in the reactor core for between 0.5 and 2.5 years. During this time, corrosion products had built up on the assemblies, restricting the flow of coolant. A method of cleaning these fuel assemblies was developed by Framatome ANP by adapting the chemical oxidation reduction decontamination (CORD) process, which uses permanganic acid (for oxidation) and oxalic acid (for reduction). [Back]

d. In January 2008, the Public Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (PURAM) became the Public Limited Company for Radioactive Waste Management. The agency is often still referred to as PURAM. [Back]

e. An isotope burial site at Solymár, located about 20 km north of Budapest, operated from 1960 until 1975, by which time a total volume of 900 m3 radioactive waste had been accepted. Between 1977 and 1980, the waste was moved to the Püspökszilágy facility and the storage facility in Solymár was decommissioned. [Back]

f. Expansion of the Püspökszilágy Radioactive Waste Treatment and Disposal facility (RWTDF) to meet the requirements of the Paks power plant was ruled out for a number of reasons. Paks Nuclear Power Plant then attempted to find an alternative site but initially failed when, in 1990, the local citizens of Ófalu opposed the construction of a facility there. As an interim solution, the capacity of RWTDF was expanded and, between 1992 and 1996, waste from Paks was sent to RWTDF.

After extensive surveys covering the whole country, in 1996, the region of Üveghuta (not far from the Paks nuclear plant) was chosen for further investigation. Site studies over the next few years eventually resulted in a final report in 2003 that concluded that the Bátaapáti (Üveghuta) site is geologically appropriate for the disposal of low- and intermediate-level waste (LILW). Underground investigation work commenced at the beginning of 2005 and Parliament gave preliminary approval by an overwhelming majority later that year. A 2006 Government Decree declared construction of the Bátaapáti waste repository to be a priority investment project. [Back]

g. Investigations in the Boda Claystone in the west part of Mecsek began in 1993. However, in 1999, the government rejected a proposal to establish an underground research laboratory there. A new investigation program in the same area commenced in 2003. Subject to the results of the site qualification test program and regulatory approval, construction of an underground research laboratory is expected to commence by 2020. [Back]

References

1. Paks Nuclear Power Plant operates at 2000 MW power, Paks Nuclear Power Plant press release (20 November 2009) [Back]

2. More power for Paks, World Nuclear News (25 May 2007) [Back]

3. MVM Zrt Board of Directors accepts the concept for preparation of capacity expansion, Paks Nuclear Power Plant press release (26 February 2010) [Back]

4. Chemical cleaning of fuel assemblies, Nuclear Engineering International (30 August 2001) [Back]

5. INES level 3 for Paks, Nuclear Engineering International (17 May 2003) [Back]

6. Hungary inaugurates permanent waste repository, World Nuclear News (9 October 2008) [Back]

General sources

Public Limited Company for Radioactive Waste Management (RHK, formerly PURAM) website (www.rhk.hu)
Paks Nuclear Power Plant website (www.atomeromu.hu)
Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) website (www.haea.gov.hu)
Country Nuclear Power Profiles: Hungary, International Atomic Energy Agency
Wildhorse Energy Ltd