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Hungary's nuclear plant to disconnect block to remove fuel rods

Hungary's sole nuclear power plant said it will disconnect one of four generation blocks from the country's grid next week to remove damaged fuel rods after more than three years of preparations. Paksi Atomerőmű Zrt (Paks Nuclear Power Plant), the operator of the plant, will work with Russia's TVEL Group to remove the fuel rods from a cleaning tank next to the plant's No. 2 block, József Kovács, the company's CEO, said yesterday in a press conference in Paks, in southern Hungary. „The Hungarian and Russian experts have practiced every single step of the removal in advance,” he said. „Safety is above everything.” Fuel rods at the plant, which generates about 40% of Hungary's electricity, were damaged in an incident in April 2003. The parts overheated in the cleaning tank and took the block off-line for more than a year until August 2004. Hungary's nuclear regulator on September 7 authorized the removal. Hungary will pay TVEL $4.5 million for the repair work, which may take several months, said István Kocsis, the CEO of state-owned power wholesaler MVM Zrt (Hungarian Power Companies Ltd). MVM owns the power plant. About 55 people will work to remove the fuel rods in five to seven steps, he added. The plant produced 13,883 gigawatt-hours of power last year. The country's lawmakers voted last October to extend the operation of its four blocks by 20 years to 2037 at the cost of Ft 170 billion ($790 million). Paksi Atomerőmű is also spending several billion forints to raise its output capacity by 8% to 2,000 megawatst by 2009. Repair works will start in the first half of October, Kovács said. (Bloomberg)