No nukes? Paks expansion criticized; EC subsidy plan nixed


The national government will go through with announcement of a tender to expand the Paks nuclear power plant despite, it seems, criticism from one high-level NGO and some local media. Energiaklub Climate Policy Institute project manager András Perger has again spoken out against such plans, summing things up for the proposal’s detractors in calling the premise of expansion “skewed.”

Perger stated that nuclear energy isn’t cheap as the argumentation goes, since, contrary to government projections, energy consumption in Hungary is decreasing, while European markets have an oversupply. Energiaklub expects this situation to stay unchanged in the long run, raising doubts about the Paks venture.

The Paks plant could ultimately represent an incredible HUF 3 trillion to HUF 4 trillion in investments, representing 10% to 20% of Hungary’s entire GDP, according to Népszabadság figures published on the weekend. The news outlet also reminds that some European and American estimates on the proposed project are much higher, while remaining nervous about Russia-based bids in the tender increasing that country’s influence in Hungarian energy matters.

The parliamentary resolution that saw approval for preliminary work at Paks with intent to develop was passed during the Gyurcsány administration in 2009, and the plant’s expansion has been public enemy no. 1 for Perger and Energiaklub since then – literally. In June, the NGO explained, “Paks Nuclear Expansion: Consumers will pay for it,” saying then that “Building a nuclear power plant is not a technical question. It cannot be put into the hands of engineers or politicians only; it should be a real public issue.”

Speaking at Energiaklub’s June event alongside Perger was former Czech Republic environmental minister Martin Bursik, who observed that “there is no public debate about nuclear energy in Hungary, just like in the Czech Republic.” Bursik also makes the Népszabadság piece, explaining that in the CEE region “the reactors are owned by the state, major players in local advertising markets and political financing, which means they influence the public and policy makers.” 

The Népszabadság piece concluded by exemplifying Germany, a country that has backed away from nuclear power swiftly and steadily since the Fukushima meltdown in 2011. On Friday, that policy changeover was exported to Brussels with a rebuffing of European Commission draft plans for a proposal which would allow European Union member states to directly subsidize nuclear power.

“Germany voted against [nuclear plants getting subsidies] and I support that,” Reuters quoted Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying at a news conference in Berlin, when asked about the draft.

Several European governments, such as Britain and France, plan to build new nuclear power stations, but many companies are shying away from investing in the expensive technology. Use of nuclear power has declined in the European Union from 2000 to present.

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