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Hungary’s nuclear plant to undergo stress test

State secretary for energy affairs János Bencsik announced that Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks will undergo tests to ensure the facility’s long term safety.

The decision was made in accordance with the EU’s plans, after the incident at the Fukushima plant in Japan. A Greenpeace expert claimed to CNBC.com on Wednesday that Hungary’s reactors, just like those in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, are more dangerous than the European average, because they don’t have secondary containment. The Paks plant has instead a hermetically sealed building and a localization tower.

Unlike those at Fukushima, the Hungarian reactors are of the pressurized water variety, which account for 60% of reactors worldwide. Expert literature often claims that the Soviet design VVER reactors, like those operating in Paks, are oversized, with thicker than necessary walls and more robust cooling systems. That’s why Hungary didn’t have to close down its plant as a prerequisite of its European accession, unlike some other countries with Soviet style blocks.

The Paks plant was subjected to a major overhaul program in the 1990’s, taking more than ten years, to comply with Western safety standards. According to István Mittler, communications director for the state-owned Paksi Atomerőmű which runs the plant, as a result of the upgrades, it is now able to withstand a 6.5 earthquake. Hungary’s strongest quake, which devastated the city of Komárom in 1763, measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

The details of the stress tests to be carried out are not yet known, but the systems that failed in the Fukushima incident will certainly be scrutinized. Local features and conditions will be taken into account at each plant.